Evans Above

Jul 17, 2021

The Paper Tigers Blu-ray review

After a delay — insert tale here about feeling under the weather for a couple of weeks and not going downstairs to check the mail during a pandemic — I had a chance today to review Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release of The Paper Tigers.

The film opens with three young friends — Danny, Jim and Hing — studying martial arts for years under the tutelage of Sifu Cheung. Fast forward to the present day and the three are estranged adults and except for Jim, not quite the physical specimens they once were. They’ve reunited to attend the funeral of Sifu Cheung, but when they realize his cause of death may not be what it seems, they have to put aside their differences and work together to get to the bottom of the mystery. The added personal dynamics and comedy elements make this a bit of a twist on the standard martial arts flick, and while the story does drag a bit at times, it’s a fairly entertaining combo of heart and martial arts. Now on to the technical aspects…

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For the most part the image is sharp with good detail in facial textures, textiles, and environmental elements. The colour palette is natural and black levels fairly good, though some interior and nighttime scenes do lose some details in the shadows.

On the audio side, there’s one soundtrack available, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Subtitles are available for English SDH, Korean, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese. The immersive aspect of your surrounds is put to good use in action scenes and the dialogue is clear, centred, and well-prioritized.

The Blu-ray disc comes with a small selection of extras including deleted scenes, bloopers, a trailer, a couple of featurettes on the production and production design, and a quick look at the Tai Tung restaurant.

Though it may not be a martial arts epic, The Paper Tigers combines action with a sweet humour as three old friends confront their past, and their present, selves. If that sounds like a mix you’d be interested in, then The Paper Tigers is recommended.

Jul 13, 2021

Mortal Kombat 4K review

Gaming fans have always enjoyed the spine-ripping action of Mortal Kombat and we’ve already seen two live action movies and an animated origin story. Now this Mortal Kombat reboot takes us from 17th century Japan to the modern day. All the bone-crunching action you’ve come to expect is here. I had a chance to review the 4K release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. To appease their highly-trained ninja lawyers, here’s a disclaimer: Though WB provided me with a review copy, the opinions expressed below are mine alone.

The HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p HDR10 digital transfer is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The native 4K presentation is chock full of great detail from elaborate costumes, facial and wound textures, to the environment the movie is set in. Detail survives even the darkest scenes, though they do occasionally get a little murky. Black levels are deep. The colour palette is really aided by the HDR10. Foliage looks lush. Blood reds – and there are a LOT of blood reds – really pop as do neon signs, laser eyes, and lightning bolts. There are no issues with digital noise or compression artifacts to speak of.

On the audio side, there’s an English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack, as well as an English Descriptive Audio track and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles available in English SDH, French, and Spanish. The soundtrack immerses you in the action so much that you’ll probably begin to get paranoid that Sub Zero is going to rip your spine out. Your surrounds move the action around the soundscape, your subwoofer gives a solid floor to the action, and even the music is dynamic and powerful. The only real quibble is that the dialogue, which is full of the franchise’s iconic quips, is a little less prioritized in the mix. Study how to make some amazing cookies. To hear the dialogue well, you’ll need to keep turning this up, so learn to appease your neighbours now.

The Mortal Kombat 4K comes with both a Blu-ray and a digital copy. The Blu-ray houses the extras and there’s an army of them. You get a few minutes of deleted and extended scenes. There’s a featurette on the story’s transition from arcades to cinemas, a look at fan favourite characters Cole Young, Sonya Blade, Kano, Sub-Zero, Jax, Lord Raiden, Scorpion, Shang Tsung, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Mileena, a behind-the-scenes look at the fights from director Simon McQuoid, second-unit director/stunt coordinator Kyle Gardiner, and fight choreographer Chan Griffin, a look at the “Easter Eggs” throughout the movie, and seven short pieces looking at how individual scenes were produced.

Fans of the franchise will marvel at what this Mortal Kombat has achieved with a relatively low budget. With an excellent video presentation, a solid audio presentation (except for the dialogue issue), and a whole slew of extras, you probably won’t go wrong adding the Mortal Kombat 4K to your collection.

Jul 09, 2021

Defending Jacob DVD review

In the Apple TV+ limited series Defending Jacob, Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery play parents of a teen (Jaeden Martell) who is accused of murdering another teen at his school. There’s a problem for Evans though as he’s an assistant district attorney. Does he do his job or defend his son?

This Apple TV+ streaming series has now been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Paramount Home Entertainment and I had a chance to take a look at the DVD. Other cast members in Defending Jacob include Cherry Jones, Pablo Schreiber, and J.K Simmons. Based on the book by William Landay, the story sadly drags a bit and this may be due to the recent disease known as “Streaming Storyitis.” This is a common affliction we’re seeing on streaming platforms, where ideas pitched for movies are suddenly stretched to eight or more hours by streaming executives who want more content to attract monthly subscribers. The cast is great, but the material just isn’t enough to support them.

The three-disc set is presented in a 16:9 aspect ratio. As a DVD release, don’t expect the clarity and detail and expanded colour palette of the Blu-ray release. On the audio side, there’s an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as well as an English Descriptive Audio track. Subtitles are available for English and English SDH. Total run time is six hours and forty-three minutes. There’s a couple of production extras and some deleted scenes.

If you really want to see Defending Jacob and already have an Apple TV+ subscription to watch something good like Ted Lasso, then watch Defending Jacob there. Unless you’re a superfan of one of the cast and simply have to own everything they’re in, you can probably give this DVD set a pass.

Jul 07, 2021

Space Jam 4K review

With the release of Space Jam: A New Legacy starring LeBron James this month, Warner Bros. decided to revisit (read: “capitalize on the nostalgia for”) the original 1996 Space Jam with the legendary Michael Jordan. To that end, we now have a 4K UHD release of the film. If Bugs Bunny, Jordan, and Bill Murray are your jam, then this set is for you. I had the chance to review the 4K and to make the lawyers happy, here’s the disclaimer: Warner Bros. provided me with a review copy of this movie. The views, opinions, and three-point shots below are mine alone.

The 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded HDR10 native 4K digital transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Like Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Space Jam is a mix of live action and animation, and this release is based off of a new 4K master. The image has more clarity and detail (live action faces, clothing and environmental elements) than previous home entertainment iterations and there’s a light film grain throughout. Note that the source material has always been a bit soft, in order to blend the live elements, animation, and mid-90s CGI effects more favourably. The HDR colour grading is the real All Star here and the live action and animated elements both benefit from pops of bold colour throughout the palette. Darker scenes do seem to suffer from some crushing in darker scenes, affecting the details in shadow. Given the aforementioned choices made in the original source material, this isn’t going to be a perfect video presentation, but it is a very good one and an improvement over past home releases.

On the audio side, we get an English Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1 main soundtrack as well as French, Spanish, German, and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The new Atmos track makes good use of the height speakers and the rest of your surrounds immerse you in the action so well that you’ll be lacing up your Air Jordans in case you get called into the game. Music is dynamic and dialogue is clear, centred, and well-prioritized, so that you don’t miss one quip from Bugs Bunny.

Included with the 4K disc is a digital code and a copy of the previous Blu-ray release. Except for the audio commentary by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and director Joe Pytka which appears on both discs, the rest of the special features are on the Blu-ray and therefore there isn’t anything new. There’s a couple of music videos, an interview with Bugs and Jordan that aired on the WB network, and a theatrical trailer.

The Space Jam 4K’s video presentation is an improvement over the Blu-ray release and the new Atmos soundtrack sounds great. Fans of Bugs, Jordan, basketball or the Nineties will want to add this to their collection.

Jul 06, 2021

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 4K review

Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has redeemed itself for releasing an often maligned Blu-ray of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory back in 2009. The redemption comes in the form of the Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 4K which I had a chance to review. To make the WB lawyers’ as happy as a kid (or adult) eating chocolate, here’s the disclaimer they love: WB Home Entertainment provided me a copy of the movie in this review. The views below are mine.

The native 4K 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded digital transfer uses the HDR10 system and is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The disc comes from a 4K restoration and fixes the framing issues of the previous release that had a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image has great detail and clarity from facial textures and textiles to the wild world of Wonka’s factory. There’s a light film grain. The colours look fantastic from the muted palette of Charlie’s world to the dazzling rainbow of Willy’s fantastical factory and the black levels are deep. This is a sweet-tasting video presentation.

On the audio side, you can choose between an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, or French and Spanish Dolby Digital Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. While purists may decry the fact that WB has not included the original English mono track as an option, the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track does update the experience to use the surrounds and put us in the midst of all that candy, though it’s still a front heavy presentation. There are some issues that can be tracked back to issues with the source material, but it’s still a very good audio track. The dialogue and vocals are clear and well-prioritized, while the score is bright and dynamic.

The Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 4K comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. The Blu-ray, sadly, is not a downscaled version of the restoration, but rather the 2009 Blu-ray. Except for the audio commentary, which appears on the 4K disc as well, the rest of the special features are on the Blu-ray disc and have not been updated for the film’s 50th anniversary. There’s a couple of featurette’s including one from 1971, some sing-along songs and a theatrical trailer.

Though it lacks new special features and the audio track still has some issues, the video presentation is still the best that Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has ever looked on physical media and that’s why it’s still a highly recommended addition to your home library.

Jul 05, 2021

My Fair Lady 4K review

After a bit of a shipping delay, I finally had a chance to take a look at a review copy of the classic movie musical My Fair Lady on 4K, courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The movie, which stars Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, is quite simply a “must own” for film lovers.

The HEVC / H.265 2160p native 4k transfer has HDR enhancement in both Dolby Vision and HDR10. The film is presented in the theatrical release’s original 2.20:1 aspect ratio. This release is one of those releases you use to show off what 4K UHD can do. The HDR makes the colour palette sing, from crisp whites and inky blacks to all the colours of the spectrum in between. Darker scenes look fantastic. The image has as much clarity and detail as Henry Higgins’ enunciation. Whether it’s facial features, textiles, interiors or exteriors, it all dazzles, which is to be expected seeing as this 4K comes from an 8K scan of the original 65mm negative. Have I gushed enough? As Eliza would say, this transfer looks “loverly.”

This is a musical and a story about diction, so sound is equally important. There’s an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack as well as French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese Dolby Digital Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, Dutch, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish. The audio presentation is just as lovely as the video presentation and is sourced from the original lossless recordings. The dynamic score has such clarity that each instrument shines and you may as well be sitting by the orchestra pit. The sound engineers have done a great job of expanding a 1964 soundtrack into the 7.1 surround environment of today. LFE gives a nice floor to the music and some of the effects. Lyrics and dialogue are clear and well-priortized, though there is an occasional light dialogue hiss from the source material. Your ears will thank you for listening to this movie.

The My Fair Lady 4K also comes with a digital code and a full cast of extras on a separate Blu-ray bonus disc. Some are quite lengthy, with “More Loverly Than Ever: The Making of My Fair Lady Then & Now” clocking in at 58 minutes.(1080i, 57:58). There’s a 1963 kick-off dinner, scenes from the LA and UK premieres, a radio interview with Rex Harrison, production tests, multiple trailers, the story of getting the film rights, production design info, and awards ceremony highlights. This is the type and amount of extras that a classic deserves.

Reference quality video and audio coupled with amazing extras makes the My Fair Lady 4K a highly recommended addition to your physical media library.

Jun 20, 2021

Nobody 4K review

Director Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody stars Bob Odenkirk as Hutch, an overlooked suburban man underestimated by everybody, including his family. He reaches the tipping point when his daughter’s kitty cat bracelet is stolen and his efforts to retrieve it put him in the crosshairs of a vengeful drug lord. The only problem for them is that Hutch may have left one very different job off his resume. The action thriller, which also stars Connie Nielsen, RZA, and Christopher Lloyd, has now been released on 4K and Blu-ray by Universal. I had a chance to look at a 4K review copy.

 

The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded digital transfer has HDR in both Dolby Vision and HDR10. It’s presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is great. Crisp detail allows us to see every hair, freckle, pore, and fight wound, as well as giving great detail in the environmental elements. The HDR really enhances the colours and lighting across the movie’s palette. Whites are bright, and the blacks are inky, with detail still present in darker scenes.

On the audio side of things, there’s a choice of an English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack as well as a Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 track and a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, and Spanish. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack immerses the viewer in all the bone-breaking, bullet-dodging action with excellent use of effects movement throughout the soundscape. Despite the activity, it doesn’t mean that the dialogue, which is centred and well-prioritized, gets washed out. The score also has great dynamics and clarity.

The Nobody 4K set also comes with a Blu-ray disc and a digital code. There’s also a nice selection of bonus extras. There are two audio commentary tracks. In the first, Bob Odenkirk, who also produced, provides commentary alongside director Ilya Naishuller. The second track features Naishuller discussing how he reworked the script as well as its inspirations and themes. There are also deleted scenes, the training Odenkirk went through, a look at the action choreography, and a featurette with the cast and crew.

The Nobody 4K combines a fast-moving thriller with excellent video and audio presentations and a nice selection of extras. If you want to go along for the ride, this 4K is recommended.

May 29, 2021

She’s the Man 15th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray review

Paramount Home Entertainment released the She’s the Man 15 Anniversary Edition back on March 2nd, 2021, but due to a shipping delay, I only recently got my hands on a review copy, so let’s take a look. The movie, which stars Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum, has Bynes dreaming of playing Division I collegiate soccer and so she takes her brother’s place at a prestigious boarding school. Typical teen mishaps, romance, and hilarity ensue with a Shakespearean inspiration. Whereas 10 Things I Hate About You was inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, She’s the Man gets its foundation from Twelfth Night, right down to the character names of Viola and Duke Orsino.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, just off of the theatrical release’s 1:85:1 aspect ratio. Paramount hasn’t tossed this off quickly as “just some teen comedy” and has given us a very good video presentation. The image is sharp with great detail in facial features, sets, and exterior environments. Shot on film, the presentation has a light grain throughout, giving it a pleasing filmic look. The colour palette is solid throughout, and ranges from clothes with popping primaries to natural greens on the soccer field. Excellent black levels and contrast and you’ll have to hunt high and low to find digital noise or compression artifacts. It looks great.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are included for English, English SDH, and French. The film has a good pop/rock soundtrack and here it’s presented with a dynamic tone and even engages your subwoofers. Ambient effects place you in environments like the soccer games and classrooms and dialogue is clear and centred. Just like the video presentation, the audio presentation is top-notch.

The disc comes with a digital code and a nice little collection of extras. There are two audio commentaries: the first, with director Andy Fickman, co-writer Ewan “Jack” Leslie and castmembers Bynes, Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Robert Hoffman, and Alex Breckenridge is a little more conversational than informative, while the second track, with co-writer/producer Ewan “Jack” Leslie and producer Lauren Shuler Donner gives us more in-depth background on the production. There’s a fifteen minute look at the scrip, casting and other production matters, a look at the cast, a piece on its Shakespearean connections, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a music video, and the theatrical trailer.

The She’s the Man 15 Anniversary Edition has great audio and video and a nice bunch of extras. If you have fond memories of this comedy from your teen years, this is a good disc to add to your physical media library.

May 28, 2021

The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series Blu-ray SteelBook review

Good things come to those who wait and, after a shipping delay, I was finally able to sit down and take a look at a review copy of the limited-edition Blu-ray SteelBook release of The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series released by Paramount Home Entertainment. The animated series, which ran on Nickelodeon, is a sequel to Airbender: The Last Avatar. In this four season series, Korra is the latest element-bending avatar facing unrest in a changing world. Voice talents on the series include Janet Varney, Seychelle Gabriel, David Faustino, P. J. Byrne, J. K. Simmons, Mindy Sterling, Aubrey Plaza, John Michael Higgins, Kiernan Shipka, Lisa Edelstein, Steve Blum, Eva Marie Saint, Henry Rollins, Anne Heche and Zelda Williams. Before I go any further, I just want to clarify that the discs in this set are the same as the 2016 box set. It’s the limited-edition packaging that’s different. I didn’t see the set back then, so let’s take a look now.

 

The 1080 AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the series’ original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image on the whole is very good. The line art is crisp. The colour palette ranges from muted tones to popping primaries. Black levels are deep and the contrast is quite good. CG effects blend in well with the animation. There is some colour banding and macroblocking but it’s not consistent and doesn’t detract too much from the overall quality.

On the audio side, there are some changes over the four seasons. Season One has an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks with English and English SDH subtitles. Season Two has an English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track with English SDH subtitles as does Season Three. Season Four has an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) and English SDH. The 5.1 soundtrack is very dynamic with excellent directional effects and ambient sounds to place you into the scene. Your subwoofer can probably give up its gym membership as the low-frequency parts give power to each battle in the series. The score is crystal-clear and dynamic and dialogue is clear and well-prioritized. It’s an excellent soundtrack.

The four SteelBooks are enclosed in a dark gray box with a cutout window on the front. Each SteelBook has colourful artwork on the front and back, with monochromatic images in the interior of the cases. Each individual season comes with multiple audio commentaries, storyboards, and other behind-the-scenes looks and dives into the story.

The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series Blu-ray SteelBook set is a great find for fans of the series and for SteelBook collectors alike. Recommended.

May 26, 2021

Supernatural: The Fifteenth and Final Season Blu-ray review

Supernatural, which saw the Winchester brothers fighting devils and demons, ended its run on the CW after 15 seasons. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has celebrated the conclusion with two releases: a Blu-ray box set of the complete series and a release of the 15th and final season. I had a chance to review the Supernatural: The Fifteenth and Final Season Blu-ray. Now let me dispense with the required WB disclaimer: though WB provided me with a copy of the season for me to review, the opinions below are mine and mine alone. With that out of the way, let’s get to it.

The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the series’ original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation looks great with a sharpness and clarity that brings out the details in the image from facial features and hair to locations and other environmental aspects. Colours are great, with excellent contrast and good black levels. Though the picture sometimes has some noise in darker scenes it’s not too bad and other compression artifacts and noise is pretty much non-existent.

On to the audio side, your ears get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, while subtitles are available in English SDH, French, and Spanish. The surrounds are put to good use for both for action moving across them and for ambient effects to place us into the environment. The subwoofer gives some subtle low end reinforcement and dialogue is clear and centred.

The set comes with a digital code. The first three discs of this four disc set carry the episodes and deleted scenes, while a fourth dedicated bonus disc gives us some good material to wrap the series up. There are interviews with the cast and crew about how they’ve dealt with the show ending, a look at the on-screen and off-screen bonds of the characters and the cast, a look at the Winchester mythology and series motifs, an examination of the story arcs, a gag reel, a Comic-Con panel, and a look at the show’s iconic car.

A much loved series, Supernatural is given a send-off with an excellent video and audio presentation and a great bunch of extras. If you’ve already got the past seasons, you’ll want to grab the Supernatural: The Fifteenth and Final Season Blu-ray or if you’re taking the series home for the first time, grab the box set.

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