Evans Above

Oct 11, 2020

The Doorman Blu-ray review

Ruby Rose and Jean Reno star in The Doorman, a direct-to-video Blu-ray release from Lionsgate. Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, it tells the story of Ali (Rose), an ex-Marine who now works as a doorman at the hotel. When a team of mercenaries led by Victor (Reno) arrive to steal precious artwork hidden in the hotel’s walls, Ali taps into her training to take them on as a one soldier army. This is standard Die Hard-esque fare, pitting one against many, but Rose is up to the job and it will help you while away the time during the crazy year known as 2020. In Canada, the flick is only available on DVD, so Blu-ray aficionados may want to shop at an importer.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, the film is crystal clear, except for a few moments of softness in some outdoor scenes. Otherwise, there’s a tremendous amount of detail in skin textures, textiles, and environmental elements. The colour palette is good, with nice pops of colour in some of the clothing. The black levels are deep and shadows have detail, with no sign of crushing in the darker scenes.

On the audio side we get a lossless English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. Subtitles are available for English SDH, Spanish and French. Low frequency hits amplify the action and gunfire. It’s a front-focused soundtrack, but the surrounds do a capable job of adding ambient elements. Dialogue is clear and centred.

The Blu-ray comes with a digital code, but other than that, the only other extra is a short featurette featuring quotes from cast and crew.

The Doorman may not be the pinnacle of action flicks, but fans of the genre will have fun with it.

Oct 10, 2020

Cats & Dogs 3: Paw Unite! Blu-ray review

The Cats & Dogs movie franchise, which started back in 2001, is now a trilogy with the release of Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!, which sees the cats and dogs of F.A.R.T. (Furry Animals Rivalry Termination) pitted against the birds, snakes, and turtles of P.O.O.P. (Pets Out of the Ordinary Pedigree) in a battle for human affection. Starring the voice talents of Max Greenfield, Melissa Rauch, and George Lopez, the humour is aimed at four-year-olds who like the idea of open mic night at the daycare. Besides the animal storyline, which features some truly “special” effects when the animals use their paws, the movie also follows their human owners, and looks at overbearing parents and money issues. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment sent me a copy to review, but the thoughts and opinions below are my own.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. While the first movie in the franchise was a theatrical release with voice talents like Jeff Goldblum and Alec Baldwin, this direct-to-video installment at times looks like it was financed by change found in the couch. Though the video presentation is crystal clear and full of good detail in fur, skin textures, and environments, there are jarring shots in some scenes that look like they were shot on an early camcorder, exhibiting a flatness that stands out in comparison. The colour palette appears a bit muted, which is a bit unusual for a movie aimed at keep the attention of young ones.

On the audio end, there’s an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. Subtitles are available for English SDH. The soundtrack is mostly front-focused, with the surround speakers occasionally asked to provide some ambient effects, while your subwoofer gets to rest for most of the movie. Dialogue is clear and centred.

On the extras side, the combo pack also comes with a DVD version and a digital code. There’s a small “making of” featurette, “interviews” with the animal cast, and a gag reel.

I’m sure that some very young children will find Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! the sort of distraction that they can watch over and over again, especially if they’re connoisseurs of repeated poop and fart jokes. If you’re looking for the sort of family movie that everyone of all ages will find entertaining, this probably isn’t it.

Oct 04, 2020

300 4K UHD review

Zack Snyder’s 300, based on the Frank Miller comic series of the same name, is a unique looking epic action film that was screaming for a 4K release. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has answered fans’ wishes with a combo set that takes us back to the battle between 300 Spartans and a massive Persian army. WBHE provided us with a review copy of 300, but the views below are my own.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 is presented in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s an upscaled 4K release as the digital effects were mastered in 2K but it looks great. The detail is fantastic with good looking skin, hair, and textile textures. It’s a very stylized film, with a graphic novel look and the colour palette and added grain reflect this. The HDR10 colour grading adds further oomph to the movie’s stylish look. Black levels are deep and don’t crush and there’s no evidence of digital artifacts. This is the sort of movie you could watch with the sound down just to take in the visuals without distraction.

On the audio side, your ears get a choice between English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 tracks as wells as English Descriptive Audio, French (Canadian), French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Thai in Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are present for English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH, Italian SDH, Dutch, Mandarin, Korean, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai. Those with an Atmos setup will love the great use of the height channels while the rest of the surround speakers are given such a good workout they’ll probably hit the showers afterwards. Your subwoofer will add some solid low frequency oomph to the proceedings. The score is clear and dynamic, and dialogue is clear, centred, well-prioritized. Just an excellent presentation.

On the extras side, the set also comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. Except for an audio commentary by director Zack Snyder, screenwriter Kurt Johnstad, and cinematographer Larry Fong, all the other extras are on the Blu-ray disc, which is identical to the 2007 Blu-ray release. They include The 300: Fact or Fiction?, Who Were the Spartans?: The Warriors of 300, Preparing for Battle: Test Footage, Frank Miller Tapes, The Making of 300, Making 300 in Images, production webisodes, and deleted scenes.

A visually stunning presentation with amazing audio makes 300 in 4K an easy add to your home entertainment library.

Sep 28, 2020

The Silencing Blu-ray review

Richard Pront’s The Silencing stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as a former hunter running a wildlife sanctuary after the disappearance of his daughter years ago. When he lends his tracking skills to help the local sheriff (Annabelle Wallis) find a vicious killer, he finds he might be getting closer to solving the mystery surrounding his daughter’s fate. This direct-to-video thriller has just been released on Blu-ray by Lionsgate and I had the opportunity to give the disc a spin.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. There’s a lot of detail in skin textures, textiles, and environment. The black levels are very good with no loss of detail in shadows and darker scenes. The colour palette is somewhat muted, but the forest greens are quite lush. Though digital noise and compression artifacts are absent, there are some moments where some aliasing is present.

On the audio end, there’s an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, with subtitles available in English SDH and Spanish. The surround channels do give some ambient placement. Dialogue is clear and centred.

On the extras side, The Silencing Blu-ray also comes with a digital code. There’s a couple of special features: a “making of” featurette and a look at the weapon used by the killer.

The Silencing manages to pack a pretty good thriller with solid performances by Coster-Waldau and Wallis into a tight 94 minute running time. Good video and a workmanlike audio presentation get the job done. If this sort of thriller is in your wheelhouse, The Silencing would make a good addition to your home library.

Sep 21, 2020

Full Metal Jacket 4K Blu-ray review

Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket examines the inhumanity and horrors of war, from the cruelty inflicted by a drill sergeant (R. Lee Ermey) on recruits like Joker (Matthew Modine) and Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) to the war itself in Vietnam. Who will pass and who will crack? Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has now released this iconic film on 4K. WBHE provided me with a copy to review, but the views below are my own.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 digital transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The original theatrical ratio of the film was 1.85:1 but Kubrick wasn’t a fan of black bars on the screen, so the 1.78:1 ratio allows it to fully fill the current standard for widescreen TVs. The clarity on the image is amazing, with hair, facial features, clothing and environmental elements showing a great amount of detail. Black levels are equally good, down to the darkest scenes with no sign of crush. The colour palette in the opening half of the film in Parris Island training camp is full of drab greens, beiges, and harsh fluorescent lighting, while the scenes in Vietnam pop with colour. The HDR10 really accents the highlights and nighttime scenes. There’s a light, subtle film grain, but no sign of digital noise or compression artifacts.

The audio choices include a lossless English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track as well as the original Dolby Digital Mono track. Foreign dubs include French, German, Italian, Castilian Spanish, and Latin Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks, and a Polish Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and Thai. It’s a pretty good remix of the original mono track, using the surrounds to place you into the scenes. The low frequency elements give the track some added heft and the rock soundtrack has some punch to it. Dialogue is clear and centred.

The combo pack comes with a Blu-ray copy as well as a digital code. The extras, located on the Blu-ray disc only, are carried over from a previous release. They include an audio commentary from Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, and Jay Cocks that also appears on the 4K disc. There’s also interviews with members of the cast or production and the theatrical trailers.

The Full Metal Jacket 4K has an excellent video presentation. A very good audio presentation. A great cast and Kubrick overseeing the whole thing. Highly recommended.

Sep 19, 2020

The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection 4K review

Fans of the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, have eagerly been waiting for Universal Home Entertainment’s 4K The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection. I was given the opportunity to get a look at this amazing set of four films: Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, and Psycho.

Let’s take a look at the individual movies in this collection, starting with Rear Window. The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is in the theatrical release’s original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This James Stewart/Grace Kelly vehicle has never looked better for home consumption. The clarity and detail is impressive, from items in the apartment, their hair and skin textures, and their wardrobes. The HDR10 colour grading makes for a pleasing palette, ranging from rich browns to the pleasing pop of Kelly’s clothes and makeup. The black levels are deep, with no loss of detail in shadows and no sign of crushing. The restoration done to the print before the transfer makes for an impeccable video presentation.

On the audio side, Rear Window comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH as well as French and Spanish. Some may have longed for a 5.1 surround update to the track, but the way I see it, most of the action takes place through Stewart’s camera lens – mono seems appropriate. Mono doesn’t mean it lacks detail though. The sounds are crisp and clear, from dialogue and music to the sounds of the city and the neighbours across the way.

As for extras, there’s a Blu-ray copy as well as a digital code. Additional features are on the 4K disc and include Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic, A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes, Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master, Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Masters of Cinema, Production Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, Re-Release Trailer with narration by James Stewart, and audio commentary by John Fawell.

Vertigo once again teams Hitchcock with James Stewart, who plays a detective with a fear of heights hired to keep an old friend’s wife (Kim Novak) from committing suicide. That simple premise evolves into a study of obsession, identity, fears, and flaws.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture is beautifully sharp and crystal-clear. There’s detail all around from the skin textures and textiles to the man-made and natural environments. The colour palette, aided by the HDR10 colour grading, is wide and dynamic, from lush greens and sunny sky blues, to a rainbow of dresses and the rich woods of furniture. Black levels are deep, with details in the shadows and no evident crushing. There’s a fine grain from the source material, but no digital artifacts or signs of compression. It’s as lovely as Kim Novak.

On the audio side, your speakers can play with English DTS:X and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks as well as English, French and Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH as well as French and Spanish. The height speakers of the DTS:X track really come to play in the bell tower scene, while the other surrounds spend the film subtly placing you in the environment. The score is clear and dynamic, the subwoofers give extra authority when needed and dialogue is clear and centred.

As for extras, there’s a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. The 4K disc includes all of the Blu-ray’s extras, except for some archives that are only on the Blu-ray. The supplemental material includes Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece, Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborations, a foreign censorship alternate ending, Hitchcock/Truffaut, a theatrical trailer, a trailer from the restoration release, 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era, and audio commentary by William Friedkin.

Up next is Psycho, the film that perfectly cast, and typecast, Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. The grandparent of the slasher film genre, it starts off following Janet Leigh as a woman who has made off with a large sum of money to start a new life with her lover. Checking into the Bates Motel, she meets both the meek yet troubled proprietor, Norman, and her demise, in a scene that made people scared to hop in the shower for years. What follows is a story that peels away the complex psychological layers of Norman, the ultimate mama’s boy.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp and the black and white presentation looks amazing. Furnishings, the motel and skin textures have a great amount of fine detail. The HDR grading, which we often think of as boosting colour, works its magic with the grayscale, from brilliant whites down to inky blacks. Detail is not lost in shadows or darker scenes. There’s the odd bit of noise from the source film, but other than that this is a very impressive video presentation.

On the audio side, there’s are English DTS:X, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and DTS 2.0 Mono tracks as well as DTS 2.0 Mono tracks in French and Spanish. Subtitles are available for English SDH as well as French and Spanish. It’s a front-heavy mix, based on its mono roots, but the surround and height channels have been used subtly to bring some sense of ambient sound into the suspenseful proceedings. The score soars here with nice dynamics and clarity. Dialogue is clear and centred.

Psycho comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. There are two cuts of the film available, the original unedited cut and a cut that most people are familiar with that appeared on TV and some previous home entertainment releases. The special features include The Making of Psycho, Psycho Sound, In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho, The Shower Scene: With and Without Music, The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass, The Psycho Archives, a collection of ads and poster, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes and production photographs, original Psycho trailers, the re-release trailers, and audio commentary by Stephen Rebello.

Last but not least is The Birds. Socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) heads to a quiet California coastal town to present a lawyer she met, Mitch (Rod Taylor), with a pair of lovebirds. If it wasn’t enough to contend with both his possessive mother (Jessica Tandy) and jealous ex (Suzanne Pleshette), Melanie also has to deal with the areas birds flocking together and horrifically attacking people. Hitchcock makes the attacks brutal and horrifying and the feeling of being trapped only adds to the sheer madness of it all.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 digital transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is mostly crystal-clear, with just a fine film grain from the source material. The scenery, characters’ faces, environmental elements, and textiles all have good detail but the video presentation does have moments where parts of the image looks flat and smoothed and some of the optical effects stand out more due to the clarity of the rest of the image. The HDR punches up the colour palette, from bright whites and black levels with excellent shadow details to good skin tones and clothing. It may not get bonus marks for some of the moments of softness, but it’s still the best home media version of The Birds yet.

On the audio side, your ears get the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track as well as French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. The original mono track is clear and the sound effects only add to the horror with the score adding to build he suspense. Dialogue is crystal-clear as well.

The Birds comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. Special features on the 4K disk include The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie, All About The Birds, Tippi Hedren’s screen test, a deleted scene, the film’s original ending, Hitchcock/Truffaut interview, two newsreels called The Birds Is Coming and Suspense Story: National Press Club Hears Hitchcock, the theatrical trailer, 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics, and 100 Years of Universal: The Lot. Two additional extras – storyboards and production photographs – only appear on the Blu-ray disc.

Unfortunately, the discs are tightly stored in sleeves which may necessitate adding fingerprints to the back of the discs in order to get them out. I would have liked to see a collection of this stature storing their discs in individual spindles.

Fans of Hitchcock obviously want all of the director’s catalog released on 4K yesterday. But Universal’s The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection, with its excellent video and audio presentations, is a very good start and a worth addition to your home entertainment library.

Sep 15, 2020

Stephen King 5-Movie Collection Blu-ray review

Paramount is releasing five of horror master Stephen King’s stories in one set, the aptly-named Stephen King 5-Movie Collection. It features The Dead Zone, Silver Bullet, The Stand, 1989’s Pet Sematary, and 2019’s Pet Sematary. Paramount Home Entertainment sent me a copy for review purposes. Four of the movies have been on Blu-ray before, while The Dead Zone’s Blu-ray is new to the U.S. market.

Let’s take a look at The Dead Zone first. Directed by David Cronenberg, it stars Christopher Walken as a man with the ability to see into the future. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, differing slightly from the theatrical release’s 1.85:1 ratio. Sadly, it’s not a great transfer, which is a shame for a newly done disc. It appears that the source for the transfer could have benefited from a good restoration. Though there is some sharp detail and good colours at times, at other points in the film the image appears soft and smoothed. There are noticeable dust and fibers at times and digital noise reduction is evident. We’ll have to await a better transfer that will do the film justice.

The audio side, on the other hand, is quite good, with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as a French Dolby Digital Mono track. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, and French. The original audio material has been massaged into a 5.1 soundscape and they’ve done a pretty good job of making the aural experience immersive. The score sounds clear and dynamic, while the dialogue is centred and well-prioritized.

As for extras, well, there are none.

Silver Bullet is up next. A serial killer is terrorizing a small town, which is home to Jane (Megan Follows) , her paraplegic brother, Marty (Corey Haim), and their Uncle Red (Gary Busey). When Marty is attacked by the killer, a werewolf, it’s up to him to convince the others of what he saw.

This release shares the same 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer used by last year’s Scream Factory release. Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer has good detail, from weathered faces, werewolf hair, and the Maine environs. The colour palette, including the rich greens of the forest, look good and the black levels give detail to even the darkest scenes.

On the audio side, the disc comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono soundtrack and English SDH subtitles. It does a great job of filling your front speakers with crisp story elements and the dialogue is crystal-clear.

Sadly, the Silver Bullet disc comes with no extra features.

Coming up to bat next is The Stand, 1994’s six-hour, four-episode end-of-days miniseries. It’s the story of a government-created super flu that gets out of the secret lab and devastates 99% of the population. The survivors in the U.S. soon find themselves in two factions, one led by a nun in Nebraska and the other led by an authoritarian figure in Las Vegas. This battle of good vs evil stars Ruby Dee, Jamey Sheridan, Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Corin Nemec, Adam Storke, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, and Laura San Giacomo.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in the original broadcast 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which means there will be vertical black bars on each side of the image. Shot on film, there’s a light grain and some occasional marks from a bad print, but textures and clarity are quite good. Colours pop when necessary, and black levels are fairly good, exhibiting some crush in darker scenes. Despite the fact this is a six-hour series crammed onto one disc, the compression still leaves us with a pretty good overall image.

The Stand was obviously intended to air in many markets, so we have English, German and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks with English SDH, German, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles. A lossless main track would have been nice but they’ve crammed six hours of material onto one disc. The soundtrack doesn’t have much oomph to it. It’s flat and though there’s some occasional use of left and right speakers to place elements, nothing really shines. The score lacks a dynamic punch, but dialogue is clear. Some of these complaints could probably have been alleviated a bit of we could have had less compression by spreading the series over two discs.

As for extras, well, The Stand actually has two supplements, an audio commentary from writer Stephen King and director Mick Garris, and a short making-of featurette.

We then take a visit to 1989’s Pet Sematary. The Creed family (Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Blaze Berdahl, and Miko Hughes) have moved into a rural home nest to a busy roadway that provides a steady stream of newcomers for the pet cemetery next door. The home also comes with a mysterious elderly neighbour (Fred Gwynne) and a mystery beyond the cemetery that may endanger the whole family.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is fairly good, especially on daylight scenes with nice greens and blues in the colour palette. In darker scenes, there is a bit of crush in the blacks and they occasionally look a little washed out. Detail is fairly good, though there is some smoothing in some areas. There’s a light film grain from the source and the transfer does look like there’s some edge enhancement.

Your speakers are given the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 track and Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is quite good, with the surrounds putting you in the middle of the scary situations. The subwoofer gives some extra gravitas when needed and the overall ambient effects are excellent. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.

On the extras side, there’s audio commentary from director Mary Lambert, Stephen King discussing his inspirations, Lambert, King, and the cast discussing the characters and a making-of featurette.

And that leads us to the final part of the collection, the 2019 remake of Pet Sematary. This time the Creed family is played by Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, and Hugo & Lucas Lavoie, while John Lithgow takes on the role of the elderly neighbour. While the remake loses some plot point from the 1989 version, it adds in some others missing from the original film. All in all, it feels less unique and more like a product of the factory that produces so many films in this genre. Apparently people need to be frightened a lot these days and so there’s a cinematic conveyor belt.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, this is the better of the video transfers in this collection. There is clarity and detail and good textures in textiles, facial surfaces and environmental elements. The colour palette is quite natural and the black levels are good with no obvious loss of detail in darker scenes.

On the audio side, this is the best audio presentation of the collection. There is an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack and an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track as well as German, Spanish, Spanish (Latin American), French, French (Canadian), Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The main track is immersive, with great ambient effects, and the low-end adds an ominous feel to many a scene. The music is clear and dynamic and dialogue is centred and well-prioritized.

This disc also has the best selection of extras, with an alternate ending, deleted and extended scenes, a look at three characters facing their fears, The Tale of Timmy Baterman, and a four-part featurette looking at various aspects of the production.

The Stephen King 5-Movie Collection is a great starter for someone new to Stephen King who’d like to own five of his films in one fell swoop, but this is not the definitive edition for these five films.

Sep 14, 2020

Roman Holiday Blu-ray review

William Wyler’s 1953 classic romantic comedy Roman Holiday has spawned many lesser imitators that try to capture its story of a person of wealth and status trying to experience a “normal life.” They generally fail because they lack many things: William Wyler’s directorial touch, Gregory Peck’s leading man magnetism and charm, Eddie Albert’s comic chops, and, above all else, the absolute sweet delight that is the breakthrough performance by Audrey Hepburn. The movie has finally been given a Blu-ray release by Paramount. Those in the U.S. or shopping through importers can get their hands on the limited-edition Paramount Presents version with some extra add-ons. I had a chance to review the standard Blu-ray.

If you somehow missed seeing Roman Holiday over the years, it tells the story of Princess Ann (Hepburn), currently representing her unnamed European country on a goodwill tour throughout Europe. Stuffy dinners, boring speeches, and meaningless small talk have the young royal bored out of her tree. She wants to experience Europe outside her gilded cage and escapes from the embassy. When she gets into a situation, she’s rescued by struggling reporter Joe Bradley (Peck). When he realizes who he’s with, the question becomes will he sell her out for a big story or will his heart take him elsewhere. The sights and sounds of a gorgeous Rome provide the perfect backdrop to the antics that follow.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the film’s original 1.37:1 aspect ratio which for newcomers to older film means that the image will be flanked by vertical black bars. This is an amazing restoration, a 4K scan from a dupe negative, with scratches and other damage carefully removed in processing. The black-and-white film has amazing detail and apart from when it originally released in theatres this is the best presentation you’re going to see, from textiles to environmental elements. The image simply looks great from the clean whites to the deep blacks and every level of gray in-between.

On the audio side, the disc comes with the choice of an English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono soundtrack and German, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Again, for the newcomer to this sort of soundtrack, it’s mono, meaning your surround speakers and subwoofer can take the night off. The dialogue is crisp and clean, the score is clear and dynamic. It’s a great presentation of an original mono track.

A great thing about this disc is that it restores the writing and story credit of Dalton Trumbo, whose name wasn’t on the film as he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. There’s an extra on the disc that goes into his story. Speaking of extras, they include Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday, Behind the Gates: Costumes, Rome with a Princess, Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years, Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist, Paramount in the ’50s: Remembering Audrey, Theatrical Trailers and four photo galleries: Production, The Movie, Publicity, The Premiere.

A gorgeous Blu-ray presentation, a crisp and clean mono and a variety of extras coupled with a fantastic movie, means you should drop what you’re doing and order Roman Holiday now. You won’t be disappointed.

Sep 12, 2020

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 4K review

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, sees Guy Ritchie once again directing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the legendary detective and his put-upon friend. This time around, Holmes and Watson must stop the evil Dr. Moriarty (Jared Harris). Moriarty plans to profit off Europe’s geopolitical and social unrest by attempting to start a war. Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry also join the cast as a fortune-teller and Sherlock’s old brother respectively. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has now released a 4K combo pack of the movie, and while WBHE sent us a review copy to check out, the views below are my own.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded 4K HDR10 transfer is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This is an upscaled 4K presentation as post-production was with a 2K digital intermediate. The look of the video presentation is a result of the stylistic choices of Ritchie and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot. The colour palette once again leans heavily on grey and sepia tones with the occasional pop of rich primaries, while the HDR10 adds extra highlights to explosions and the odd amount of sun. Skin textures and environmental elements are sharp and detailed, but due to the upscaled nature of the transfer aren’t as vast an improvement over the Blu-ray as if this was a native 4K shoot. Black levels are deep and not much detail is lost in the darkest scenes. There isn’t any noticeable amount of digital noise or compression artifacts, though as some elements were shot on 35mm, there is some fine grain.

On the audio side, we are getting the same English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that was on the Blu-ray release and once again it would have been nice if the 4K had a Dolby Atmos or DTS-X track. Additional tracks are available in French, German, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1, while subtitles are available in English SDH, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified and Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and finally, Thai. The surround speakers are used to provide ambient sounds but this is a front-heavy mix that doesn’t pan the action through the surrounds that much. The low frequency add the necessary oomph when called upon and the Hans Zimmer score is clear and dynamic. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.

On the extra side, we get a Blu-ray disc and a digital code. The supplemental features are the same as the 2012 Blu-ray as, the same with the first film, the Blu-ray is the 2012 release. There’s Maximum Movie Mode, which provides a picture-in-picture commentary from Robert Downey Jr., and Focus Points, which is essentially the highlights from the commentary. There’s also a 2012 era app, which I didn’t have a chance to see if it still worked.

The Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 4K look great and the desire for an Atmos track is more a wish than a quibble. If you’re a fan of the series, of Ritchie, or just like a good adventure, you’ll want to add this to your collection.

Sherlock Holmes 4K review

Guy Ritchies’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes, which stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams, sees Holmes and Watson taking on a case that has occultists threatening the seat of power in the UK. The high energy adventure has now been given the 4K Ultra HD treatment by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. I was given a review copy of the disc by WBHE, but as always the opinions below are my own.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image has a great amount of detail in skin, textiles and environmental elements but it’s not a vast improvement over the previous Blu-ray as the movie was shot in 2K, so this transfer is an upscaling. The colour palette has an almost sepia tone look to it, which is a stylistic choice that helps bring you into the era and the damp, foggy gloom of its London. When there is a pop of colour, it’s noticeable and the HDR10 does it’s stuff with adding some zing to the highlights, as in moments where the sun peeks out from a cloud or light reflects off the water. The image does have some softness at times. Black levels are fairly good, though there is the occasional crushing. There doesn’t appear noticeable compression artifacts or digital noise and the image does have a slight film grain. It’s a very good video transfer and some of the aspects of it are due to artistic choices.

Your ears have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack or French, German, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified and Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and Thai. The soundtrack is the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as on the previous Blu-ray release. Though it would have been nice to update it to a Dolby Atmos or DTS-X soundtrack, this is still a very good soundtrack. The surround speakers put you in the action with good ambient placement and the low frequency moments will have your subwoofer adding some extra oomph in the action scenes. Dialogue is centred, clear, and well-prioritized and the score is clean and dynamic.

The 4K combo pack of Sherlock Holmes comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. There are no extras on the 4K disc, they’re all located on the Blu-ray disc. These extras are the same as on the 2010 Blu-ray because…wait for it…this is the 2010 Blu-ray. There’s a Maximum Movie Mode, a full-length picture-in-picture commentary from director Guy Ritchie, a Focus Points featurette that is essentially the best elements of the full-length commentary, and a short featurette on the production.

Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes gives us a lot of great action and a wonderful pairing in Downey Jr. and Law. With a great 4K video presentation and a good soundtrack, you won’t go wrong adding this 4K to your collection.

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