Evans Above

Feb 26, 2020

Frozen II Blu-ray review

When Frozen came out in 2013, it was a huge box office hit that spawned a merchandising avalanche and a million YouTube videos of toddlers singing “Let It Go.” It took six years for Disney to release a sequel and though some loved Frozen II as much as the first, others found it to be a bit lacking in comparison. Which side of the snowball fight are you on? You can decide at home as Disney has released it for your home library. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is strikingly beautiful. It’s crystal clear and the characters and their environments have impeccable detail. The colour palette is bold and looks great whether it’s fall foliage or ice and snow. There’s no digital noise or compression artifacts, black levels are deep, and there’s detail even in darker scenes. This presentation can go to the head of the class.

On the audio side, your ears are treated to an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The soundscape makes good use of the surrounds and you’ll be so immersed in the action that you might want to bring a parka. Sometimes the low frequency parts could use a little more oomph (which is a valid scientific term) and as this is a musical, the score is bright and dynamic. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.

Besides a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code, Frozen II also comes with over an hour of extras. You can play the movie in karaoke format, with lyrics onscreen to sing along with. There are outtakes from the voice recording sessions, deleted scenes and songs, a look at the score and production, music videos, and the song “Into the Unknown” in 29 languages.

If you love Frozen II, you’ll love this home entertainment release. Dazzling video and audio and a nice collection of extras make this an easy purchase.

Feb 24, 2020

Ford v Ferrari Blu-ray review

I really enjoyed Ford v Ferrari. I initially screened it at the Toronto International Film Festival and enjoyed it so much that I saw it again at a press screening closer to its theatrical release. 20th Century Fox released it for home entertainment on February 11th and I received a Blu-ray/Digital combo to review last week. The movie tells the true-life story of Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), whose racing and design team helped the Ford Motor Company defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s just good old solid filmmaking with great performances and amazing race scenes.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The detail on the video presentation is excellent from sun-weathered faces to greasy overalls to gritty race tracks. The colour palatte is pleasing and natural and captures everything from the sun-drenched sky over a desert race track to the more muted tones in the garages and rainy Le Mans track. Contrast and black levels are good and there really isn’t digital noise or compression artifacts to comment on. All in all, it’s just a very good video presentation.

Your ears are given the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, English Dolby Digital 2.0 and descriptive audio 5.1 tracks and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The sound editing team have outdone themselves. Your surround speakers are given such a workout that they’ll probably hit the showers afterwards. You’ll be immersed in the races as the cars in the races move around the soundscape so well that you’ll swear you need to check your blind spot. Low frequency growls from the engines add extra heft to the races. But even in quieter non-race scenes, the ambient effects are very good. Dialogue is clear and well-prioritized and the score is bright and dynamic.

Besides the digital code, you also get theatrical trailers and a one-hour look at the production and the real-life story behind it.

With great performances, stunning video and audio, and a lengthy behind-the-scenes doc, you’ll want to park Ford v Ferrari in your physical media collection.

Feb 22, 2020

Jojo Rabbit Blu-ray review

Jojo Rabbit is a polarizing film with people either loving it or looking upon it with disdain. Some dismissed a comedy that featured Adolf Hitler as a boy’s imaginary friend as a travesty, even if they hadn’t seen it. Mel Brooks once told NPR, “Listen, get on a soapbox with Hitler, you’re gonna lose — he was a great orator. But if you can make fun of him, if you can have people laugh at him, you win.” I happen to be in the love Jojo Rabbit camp. Director Taika Waititi, who adapted the screenplay from Christine Leunens’ book Caging Skies and also plays the imaginary Hitler, gives us the story of a young boy whose father is gone so he has sought a hero figure. For him that figure just happens to be Hitler. It’s an examination of the cult of celebrity, the seduction of populism. At one point, the young boy is told that “You’re not a Nazi, Jojo, you’re a 10-year-old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.” It’s not hard to see parallels with populist movements currently growing around the world and when it’s not being funny, Jojo Rabbit is a warning not to lose your individuality and critical thinking skills and allow a movement to steer you in the wrong direction. So you might love it or hate it. If you want to see for yourself, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has now released it for your home entertainment library. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray, which also comes with a digital code.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the theatrical release’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is sharp and full of detail, from facial features to the clothes and uniforms and environments. The colour palette isn’t just the drab olives and browns that we’d expect from a wartime film. There are pops of colour, especially in Jojo’s home, as this is a world seen through a young boy’s excited eyes. Contrast and black levels are generally very good, though there are a few darker scenes in the home that lack some shadow detail.

On the audio side, your ears have a choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 descriptive audio track and Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Surrounds provide good ambient effects and the dialogue is clear and well-prioritized.

Besides the digital copy, the extras include some deleted scenes, outtakes, a half-hour “Inside JoJo Rabbit” featurette, trailers, and audio commentary from Taika Waititi that includes the director calling up some of the cast and interviewing them.

With a great cast, excellent video and audio, and a small collection of extras, I think Jojo Rabbit is a worthy addition to your home library.

Feb 19, 2020

Midway 4K Blu-ray review

Roland Emmerich’s Midway may sometimes lack some emotional depth and have line deliveries right out of a 1940s recruitment/morale film, but it does a very good job of telling us the story behind one of the pivotal naval battles in the Pacific Theater during WWII. Like 1970’s Tora! Tora! Tora!, we see the story from both sides and get inside the thinking process of the admirals and captains. It’s not just a dry history lesson though, as Emmerich brings to life not just the Battle of Midway but the attack on Pearl Harbor that proceeded it. Pilots take risks, intelligence analysts make educated guesses and we get entertained along the way. Lionsgate has just released Midway for your home entertainment library and I had a chance to review the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital combo pack.

The 2160p H.265/HEVC-encoded transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Details on fabrics, real items and facial features are excellent, and even though some of the CGI elements and green-screened backgrounds can have a little softness, the detail is still quite good. The colour palette is mostly muted with a lot of greens, beiges and greys, but when colours pop, like on the dress of a nightclub singer, they’re beautifully saturated. Contrast and black levels are generally good, though there is some crushing in the darkest scenes. There’s some digital grain added, which gives it an almost historical footage look at times, so you’ll have to decide if it’s an artistic choice or an irritant. I didn’t mind.

On the audio side, there are some different options depending on country. I was sent a US review copy, which comes with an English Dolby Atmos track, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 descriptive track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish. According to the box photo on Amazon Canada, the Canadian version doesn’t have Atmos, but rather English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks and subtitles in English SDH only. Not quite sure why the Canadian version would lose the Atmos. Speaking of Atmos, the immersive soundtrack makes excellent use of the height speakers. The battle scenes have bullets, bombs and planes traversing the whole soundscape, while the low frequency effects have ample power. The musical score is clear and dynamic, while dialogue is clear and well-prioritized.

Besides the Blu-ray copy, there’s also a digital copy code. The other extras include audio commentary by Roland Emmerich, a look at the filmmakers’s goal of accuracy, a look at some of the real-life characters, a featurette on Emmerich’s interest in Midway, historical looks at the legacy of the battle and the important code-breaking that gave the US an intelligence upper hand, a touching piece with two Midway veterans and a theatrical trailer.

Midway does a very good job of showing us the battle of Midway, the events leading up to it, and the men in uniform on both side who had to live and die by the political decisions that led to the war. With an excellent video and audio presentation coupled with a nice collection of extras, historical buffs will want to add this one to their home collection.

Feb 17, 2020

Snatchers Blu-ray review

High school can often be a tough time. Nobody knows this more than Sara. Sex can complicate things, but maybe more so when Sara’s boyfriend contracted an alien virus over the summer and their tryst results in her waking up not just pregnant, but nine months pregnant. With an alien.

Warner Bros Home Entertainment has released Snatchers, which stars Mary Nepi as the cool kid with a big problem. WBHE provided us with a review copy of the Blu-ray combo pack, which also comes with a DVD copy and a digital code. The opinions below are my own.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s take a look at the disc. The B-movie comedy-horror fun is presented in an AVC-encoded 1080p transfer that is in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It’s a very nice transfer with sharpness and good detail in skin, textiles and environmental surfaces. The colour palette is natural, with good contrast and black levels with detail present even in low light scenes. Compression artifacts are not an issue.

On the audio side, your ears are presented with a choice of an English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track or Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The mix makes good use of the surrounds to provide ambient effects and your subwoofer will provide additional heft when needed. The dialogue is clear and centred.

On the extra side, besides the DVD disc and digital code, the extras include video commentary, “The Birth of Snatchers” and a blooper reel.

Snatchers is the sort of fun, cheesy, B-movie horror comedy that teens would get together and watch in the Eighties. Genre fans will like the movie and the video and audio presentation is very good.

Feb 04, 2020

FLCL: Progressive and Alternative Blu-ray review

Warner Bros Home Entertainment has now released a Blu-ray combo pack of Adult Swim’s cult anime shows FLCL: Progressive and Alternative. FLCL: Progressive is the sequel to 2001’s FLCL (フリクリ). That series followed a young teen named Naota who encounters an alien Galactic Space Police investigator named Haruko when she runs him over with her Vespa and then hits him in the head with her vintage Rickenbacker guitar. But hey, she was looking for Atomsk, the most powerful space pirate and you gotta do what you gotta do. Especially when the Fraternity is battling the Medical Mechanica. If you’re following along, then this show’s for you. Please note that while Warner Bros provided us with a copy of the series to review, the opinions below are my own.

In FLCL: Progessive, we know follow a 14-year-old teen Hidomi and her classmate, Ide, as the power struggle between the Medical Mechanica and the Fraternity continues. Our alien investigator, Haruko, has now taken on the form of Hidomi’s teacher and she’s joined by another alien, Jinyu. From there, FLCL: Alternative centres on 17-year-old Kana and her friends. Once again Haruko returns to try and save the planet from the Medical Mechanica.

Having not seen the original FLCL, I can’t tell you how these follow-ups compare story-wise, but if you’re aware of the shows and are looking to add them to your collection, I can tell you the technical specifications of the 2 disc set. The AVC-encoded 1080p video presentation is presented in the original airing’s 16:9 aspect ratio. The video is crisp and the details of the line animation are very sharp. The colour palette is muted and there appears to be no digital noise or compression issues. On the audio side, your ears are presented with an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Subtitles are available in English SDH. The 12 episodes are presented on two Blu-ray discs and there is an included digital copy code. There’s a nice selection of extras, including a making-of featurette that interviews cast and crew, a look at the new production team behind the sequels, a segment on the Japanese band The Pillows that provide much of the soundtrack and a featurette on the English voice actors and their work to dub the series with energy.

If you’re a fan of the FLCL series and want to complete your collection, then the video, audio and extras of the FLCL: Progressive and Alternative combo pack will be a nice addition to your home entertainment library.

Feb 01, 2020

Parasite Blu-ray review

South Korean film Parasite made history when its cast won Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, marking the first time a foreign language film took home that statuette. The Academy Award Best Picture nominee is now available from Universal Home Entertainment. I had an opportunity to review the Blu-ray edition.

The 1080p AVC-encoded video presentation is presented in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, the transfer is crisp and detailed. Skin details show off every pore and hair, while environmental and textile surfaces have great detail in the various settings of wealth and squalor. The colour palette does have many muted elements, but there are splashes of colour in some places that pop off the screen. Contrast is excellent and the black levels are deep. There is a smattering of digital noise in some of the low-light scenes. All in all, this is an excellent video presentation.

On the audio side, the Canadian version I reviewed had Korean and French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks and subtitles in English and French. It’s my understanding that the U.S. version lacks the French audio track and subtitles. The use of the surround channels is very good at providing ambient details that put you in the story’s environment. The musical score is dynamic and while mostly in the front speakers does make use of the surrounds and subwoofer. The dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized.

The U.S. version of the movie comes with a digital copy code for Movies Anywhere, while the Canadian version does not. The disc also comes with a roughly twenty minute question and answer featurette with director Bong Joon Ho.

Critically-lauded and featuring an excellent video and audio presentation, Parasite is a worthy addition to your home library. Though some may be wary of a foreign language film without an English dub, it’s important to be reminded of director Bong Joon Ho’s words when he accepted Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes: “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films. I think we use only just one language, the cinema.”

Jan 14, 2020

Krypton: The Complete Second and Final Season Blu-ray review

The TV series Krypton took DC Comics fans 200 years back before the birth of Superman and follows the life of his grandfather Seg-El, whose family has been banished by the Zod clan. Throughout the series, Seg-El tries to unite a band of resister to restore hope to Krypton, and with the help of a time-traveler from Earth, try to save the events that will lead to his grandson’s eventual birth. Fans were disappointed when the Syfy network canceled the show in August of 2019, but luckily both seasons are available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray/Digital set of Krypton: The Complete Second and Final Season. Disclaimer: Though Warner Bros Home Entertainment provided me with the set to review, the opinions expressed are my own.

The 10 episodes of the final season are contained on two Blu-ray discs. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s a pretty good video presentation, though scenes and settings tend to be on the darker, drabber side. Krypton isn’t a planet on a tourist’s list of lush green places to visit. The images are clear and there is good detail on skin, textile and surface textures. As mentioned, the palette is on the drab side (perhaps there’s a part of the colour spectrum called “downtrodden”) but black levels are good and deep. There’s only a smattering of digital noise throughout the presentation.

On the audio side of things, the season comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English and French. Though there’s a good use of the surround tracks that will put you in the scene, it appears that dialogue is not always properly prioritized.

As for extras, the 2 disc set does come with a digital copy code. There are also two featurettes. Villains: Modes of Persuasion lets you know what makes your favourite DC baddies tick. In The Fate of Superman, executive producer David S. Goyer reflects on Superman’s lineage and how his grandfather Seg-El balanced the survival of his home planet against that of the entire universe.

Krypton: The Complete Second and Final Season has solid but not spectacular video and audio presentations. Casual DC fans will probably give it a pass, but if your a fan of the series or a DC fan who needs everything, you’ll want to add this to your collection.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Blu-ray review

When Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was in cinemas last year, I said that though it shied away from fully exploring some of its themes (genocide anyone?) it was anchored by strong performances by Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer. You can judge it for yourself as it’s now available for your home collection. I had the opportunity to review the Blu-ray combo pack.

The 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. If Jolie and Pfeiffer are the stars of the story, then the colour palette is the star of this video presentation, boldy and cleanly popping off the screen. The lush greens of the fairy forest, the rainbow of royal attire, and the striking red of Maleficent’s lipstick against her pale screen are all visually stunning. Excellent black levels are matched with great shadow detail in the movie’s darker moments. Textures, whether it be skin, fabric or fortress, are all perfectly and clearly detailed. Real and CGI characters and settings blend seamlessly. It’s an excellent video presentation with no noticeable digital noise or compression artifacts.

On the audio side, your ears have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, an English 2.0 Descriptive Audio track, and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Like many recent Disney home releases, you may need to increase the volume above its reference level to fully feel its dynamic range. The soundscape makes great use of the surrounds in both ambient and directional effects and the low frequencies provide a solid floor when needed. The orchestral score is lush and clear and dialogue is centred and well-prioritized.

The Blu-ray combo pack also comes with a DVD copy and Movies Anywhere digital code. There are a few short featurettes exploring things like characters and visual effects, as well as outtakes, extended scenes and a music video by Bebe Rexha.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has a stunning video presentation, very good audio, and a smattering of extras. Fans of the film, Disney collectors and fans of Jolie and Pfeiffer will want to add it to their home entertainment library.

Dec 17, 2019

Abominable Blu-ray review

In Abominable, a group of friends come across a young yeti they name Everest and embark on a journey to get him back to his family and home. As they trek across China, they discover their own bravery and learn about themselves in an adventure for the whole family. You can join their quest too as Universal Home Entertainment has released it for your entertainment library. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray, DVD and Digital combo pack.

The disc’s 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is released in the theatrical version’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is as beautiful as a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day. Crisp and full of detail, the animation exhibits great textures from the characters to the environments they’re in and Everest’s fur simply looks amazing. The colour palette is bright, the black levels are deep with good shadow detail, and the white in the snowy scenes doesn’t clip. There is no evidence of compression artifacts or digital noise.

On the audio side, your ears have the choice of English Dolby Atmos and TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 7.1 tracks and an English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0 descriptive video track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The surround usage puts you in the environment, with excellent ambient sound throughout. There’s good use of low frequencies and the musical score is dynamic. Dialogue is clear, centred and properly prioritized.

As to the extras, we start off with both a DVD copy and a digital copy code. There is commentary from the production staff, deleted scenes and a bunch of featurettes that include two original shorts, cast interviews, animation techniques and drawing and cooking lessons.

From beautiful visuals and sound to a good collection of extras, adventurers of all ages will want to add Abominable to their home media collection.

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