Jun 22, 2019
Depending on your point of view, Disney is either looking for ways to revisit its animated classics with live action remakes or plundering its past to try and make new money off of old and tested material. With Dumbo, Disney heads back to the 1941 tale of a baby circus elephant who can fly. This time the ringmaster is Tim Burton, who brings his trademark style to the visuals in this story. You can now take it home. We had the chance to check out the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo set. A 4K version is also available.
The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in the theatrical release’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, the video presentation is full of crisp, sharp details. The period costumes look amazing, from the textures of the textiles, to the detail of the stitching. The environmental details also look great, whether it be the hay on the ground to the circus tent soaring above the action. The faces of the actors are equally sharp and detailed, as are the elephants and other CGI-created effects. The circus is reflected in the colour pallete with strong hues and the black level is deep. Low light level scenes still hold detail. There is some digital noise throughout the film, especially in lower light scenes.
On the audio side, your ears have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack or Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Like many recent Disney releases the soundtrack is a bit on the quiet side at standard reference levels, but cranking up the volume a bit fixes that issue. Dialogue is clear and well centred, and the music is clear and dynamic. While the surrounds do a great job of putting you in the centre of the action, the soundtrack is hampered by an underwhelming amount of bass. With elephants around you’d expect a little more low frequency action to give their movements some oomph.
A DVD copy and a digital code start off the list of extras. We have a look at the cast, their performances and some of the circus training that was undertaken. There’s a behind the scenes on the creation of our title character. There’s also a music video from Arcade Fire, deleted scenes, Easter eggs and a gag reel.
The Dumbo disc provides an excellent video presentation, a slightly hampered audio presentation and a sufficient amount of extras. Tim Burton fans and Disney aficionados will want to add this to their libraries.
Jun 13, 2019
Writer-director Jordan Peele’s Us is a terrifying and thought-provoking horror film with psychological underpinnings, as a family meets their deadly doppelgängers. With a cast led by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, Peele shows that his previous outing, Get Out, was not a fluke and he’s a master at the rhythms and cadences of the horror/thriller genre. Now you can take the fear home with you as Universal releases Us in 4K and Blu-ray. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo.
The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The detail and sharpness of the video presentation is amazing. Facial features reveal every pore and wrinkle while clothing, buildings and other environmental features also have outstanding detail. Though most of the film is in low light conditions, the colour palette is still accurate and black levels are deep with great contrast. Though there is some digital noise, it is neither distracting nor constant.
On the audio side, you get an English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. A horror film works best when the viewer is immersed in the experience and the soundscape here makes ample use of the surround channels to put you in the middle of the terror. The low-frequency elements are strong but not overpowering. Dialogue is clear and crisp in the centre channel.
To start off the extras, the Blu-ray comes with a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere download code. Featurettes include a look at the family and their doppelgängers, the complexity of shooting each scene twice with the actors doubling roles, Peele’s love of horror and his influences, the social themes and doppelgänger mythology, a breakdown of key scenes, as well as deleted scenes and outtakes.
If you’re able to handle the terror of Us, then you’ll find the video and audio presentation and included extras to be a worthy addition to your home entertainment library.
Jun 10, 2019
When I reviewed Captain Marvel, I said that it was a “great origin story, with growth and heart, coupled with great chemistry between the leads…” and now you have a chance to take it home with you. I reviewed the Blu-ray/Digital Code combo.
The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Clarity and detail are present throughout, whether it be in costumes, environmental or structural components. The colour palette is neutral but when a colour is required to stick out it pops nicely. Skin tones are accurate and the black levels are deep. Taken from digital source material, the transfer is excellent and there is negligible digital noise or artifacts.
On the audio side, your ears have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. Like many recent Disney soundtracks, the audio level is a bit lower than reference levels, but adjusting the volume up a scootch provides a satisfying audio experience. The surround channels immerse the viewer in Vers’ world. Low end frequencies are used throughout for emphasis, though sometimes feel a bit muted. The music, full of some great 90’s tracks, is dynamic and clear and the dialogue is centred and clear as well.
The disc comes with a Movies Anywhere download code. Extras include a commentary track from writers/directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, a look at the physical and fight training Brie Larson went through, origin info for Nick Fury, a spot on everyone’s fave feline, Goose, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
With great video, excellent audio, and a bunch of good extras, Captain Marvel is a great addition to you home theatre library.
Apr 15, 2019
M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass unites three characters that he’s introduced us to before. In Unbreakable, we met David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), two men whose physical attributes set them up to be the perfect hero and villain combo. In Split, we met The Horde (James McAvoy), a violent offender with multiple personalities. Brought together in an institution run by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), the trio are set for more superhero/supervillain stories that exist outside the DC and Marvel universes. With the home entertainment release you can now add Glass to your library. We had a chance to preview the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Download combo set.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is, in a word, excellent. Details, whether they be human or environmental, are crystal-clear with great textures on skin, clothing and structures. In lower light scenes there is only rare digital noise and contrast and black levels are well presented. The colour palette, depending on the scene or character can be neutral to richly robust. Skin tones are excellent as well. In terms of the video presentation, if you get bored with saying excellent, you can try awesome or perfect as well. It’s up to you.
On the audio side, your ears will get treated to English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 tracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Those with an Atmos setup will enjoy good overhead effects like rolling thunder. The other surround speakers will immerse you in the world that Shyamalan has created. Your subwoofer will also be put to good use with powerful responses to each punch and thud. The musical presentation is well done and dialogue is clear and centred. An excellent audio presentation.
On the extras side, you get a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code as well as a nice collection of short featurettes. There’s an alternate opening, a collection of deleted scenes, character studies and a look at various aspects of the production.
Combine a story that opens itself to more exploration with fantastic video, audio and extras and you know that Glass should be part of your home entertainment library.
Mar 19, 2019
When Mary Poppins Returns hit theatres, I said my quick take was this: “Emily Blunt and Mary Poppins Returns both had big shoes to fill. It’s a perfect fit.” You can now take the fantastic English nanny home as Disney releases both 4K and Blu-ray versions. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray combo pack.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation reflects the moods of the two real and fantasy worlds very well. The early London scenes are dark and dreary, populated with gray and washed-out blue tones, street lamps reflecting puddles left by the dreary clouds above. When Mary takes her young charges off to the more fantastical places and animated worlds, the colours pop. Details, whether it be on clothing, furniture, faces, or trees are crisp and complex and the animated lines are clean. Skin tones are natural and the black levels and contrast are spot on. Very little digital noise or artifacts are seen throughout.
On the audio side, your ears have their choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. Like all recent Disney home releases, the soundtrack is a little quieter than most reference levels, but again, the solution is just to turn it up a little. Just as Mary Poppins likes the children to be active for their health, your surround speakers will have a good workout, putting you in the centre of the action. It’s a musical and the soundtrack does not disappoint, with great tone in the music and clarity in the lyrics. Your subwoofer won’t get the same workout that it might in a Star Wars film, but when it is used it makes sense. Dialogue is clear and centred.
Mary Poppins was always able to pull amazing items out of her bags and her Blu-ray is stuffed with extras too. Besides a DVD version and a digital download code, the set also comes with a sign-along mode that puts lyrics up during the songs, a look at Dick Van Dyke’s cameo and the cast reactions, bloopers, a collection of shorts focusing on the shooting of the musical numbers, a deleted song, “The Anthropomorphic Zoo”, sung by songwriter Marc Shaiman, a lengthy featurette on the making of the film, and some deleted scenes.
Mary Poppins Returns is a lovely, sweet film that’s been given an excellent video and audio presentation by Disney. Well worth adding to your collection.
Feb 26, 2019
The Disney animated classic The Little Mermaid is now celebrating its 30th year with the release of a 30th Anniversary Signature Collection Edition. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray combo version of the release, the eighth in the Signature Collection line.
The 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This a new transfer and it looks great. The colour palette is full of deep ocean blues, bold reds and the rich purple of our villainess Ursula. The contrast is excellent and there’s a slight grain from its film stock origins. The lines of the hand-drawn animation are crisp and those beautiful Disney backgrounds look fantastic. This is a wonderful transfer with little evidence of encoding artifacts.
As it’s a musical, how does The Little Mermaid treat your ears? There’s an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. It’s a challenge putting an older film’s stereo soundtrack into the modern surround soundscape, but Disney’s sound engineers have done quite a good job. The dialogue and song vocals are crisp and clear and they’ve managed to move enough effects into the surround channels to create some good immersive moments. The low frequencies are also used sparingly but to good effect.
The combo pack also comes with a DVD and a digital download code. As with other Signature Collection discs, the extras get a bit of a makeover, with some new material introduced, some old material excised and some legacy material moved to digital only. A new featurette called Alan Menken and the Leading Ladies has Disney leading ladies Jodi Benson, Paige O’Hara, Judy Kuhn, Lillias White, and Donna Murphy talking about their collaborations with Menken on various classic projects. There are new looks at the voice actors discussing their characters, looks at Walt’s collectibles collection, a new music video,as well as audio commentary from writers/directors Ron Clements and John Musker and composer Alan Menken. The digital-only content includes a plethora of song content including several karaoke tracks.
Couple a classic story, great songs and characters with a newly remastered video presentation, a great 7.1 update on a stereo soundtrack and a ton of extras and you’ll find that The Little Mermaid 30th Anniversary Signature Collection Edition is a worthy addition to your home entertainment library.
Feb 25, 2019
When Ralph Breaks the Internet was in its theatrical release, I said that it had “sugary visual delights for the youngest audience member and food for thought and big laughs for their older siblings and parents.” Now that fun is available for your home entertainment library. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray version of the film.
The 1080p AVC-encoded Blu-ray transfer comes in the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. As the original is digitally produced, the resulting transfer is clean with crisp details throughout. The colour palette, especially in the cyber worlds, pops with bold colours in the more fanciful areas of the Internet. Contrast and black levels are excellent. There are no obvious digital noise issues in the visual presentation.
On the audio side of things, your ears get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. As is the trend with most recent Disney home entertainment releases, the soundtrack is a bit low when played at a reference volume, but cranking it up a bit rectifies the situation. Your surround channels are given quite the workout whether it be a subtle bit of placing you in the environment or subjecting you to some crazy part of the cyber scene. When low frequencies do kick in, they do so with quite a thump. Music is dynamic and the dialogue is clear and centred.
As for bonus features, Ralph Breaks the Internet comes with both a DVD copy and a Movie Anywhere download code. There’s a look at Easter eggs hidden within the movie, a piece on how music is used for structural and narrative purposes, cat videos, a half-hour featurette on the making of various scenes, a collection of deleted scenes, and music videos from Imagine Dragons and Julia Michaels.
Great picture, great sound, good extras and a sweet, funny, and emotional story. Ralph Breaks the Internet is a welcome addition to your home entertainment library.
Jan 28, 2019
Disney has delivered an excellent audio and video presentation with the home entertainment release of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. For those who love the story origins, love all movies connected to Christmas, or simply must have all of Disney’s output, here’s a look at the home entertainment release, available as a Blu-ray combo pack.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio of the theatrical release. Shot on film, it’s a gorgeous digital transfer. Textural details are amazing, whether it be faces, clothing or environmental details. The image is sharp and the colour palette works whether it’s the more muted confines of dusty attic to the more punchy colours of the Four Realms. Skin tones are accurate and black levels in the darker scenes are deep with good shadow detail. There’s no digital noise to discuss. Disney has done a stellar job with this Blu-ray transfer.
On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Like many recent Disney releases, you’ll have to crank the volume a little bit more than you might with discs from other studios. The music, so important to this production, has excellent clarity and dazzles throughout the soundscape. The surround channels are given a great workout and envelopes the viewer in the fanciful lands our heroine visits. The low-end doesn’t blow you away, but provides the necessary oomph when needed. Dialogue is clear and centred.
Besides a DVD copy and a digital download code, the disc is a bit light on extras. There’s a conversation with ballerina Misty Copeland, a look at costumes and set design and a couple of music videos.
Big on eye candy and light on story, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is nevertheless a fantastic audio and video presentation for home entertainment. Avid collectors will no doubt pick it up, but casual viewers might want to give it a pass.
Jan 21, 2019
When I saw First Man at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, I was blown away. I thought director Damien Chazelle and his effects and sound teams captured every nut and bolt and bone-rattling moment of the launches and the claustrophobic confines of the barebones spacecraft that first took men to the moon. Meanwhile, I thought the cast — led by Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy — captured the spirit of the space explorers and their families. With the 4K UHD and Bu-ray release, you can now take the space race home with you. I had a chance to preview the Blu-ray edition.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1, though the scenes on the moon change to a 1.78:1 ratio. First Man was shot on film and it’s the perfect medium as the grain and colour palette remind us of the TV and documentary footage of the time. The clarity and textural nuances are amazing, from the facial details of the actors to the spacecraft surfaces and clothing. Skin tones are accurate and the contrast and black levels are great, with good shadow detail. This is a first-rate Blu-ray transfer.
On the audio side of things, your ears are given the choice of English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1, tracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. Aside from undergoing months of NASA training, the soundtrack is probably the closest thing to immersing you in the experience, with the surround channel enveloping you in every rattle, creak, stress moan and rumble of the spacecraft as the massive rocket engines rip the astronauts from the pull of Earth’s gravity. Dialogue is crisp and clearly presented.
Aside from a DVD copy and a digital download code, the disc also includes deleted scenes, audio commentary and a selection of short featurettes looking at the history of the Neil Armstrong and the production magic that went into presenting his story.
A stellar audio and video presentation, great performances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, and a production that puts you in the middle of the action all add up to a reason why First Man should be part of your home video library.
Jan 14, 2019
It’s been four decades since Michael Myers went after Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in John Carpenter’s 1978 horror flick Halloween and spawned a franchise of okay and forgettable sequels. Now, director David Gordon Green and his co-writers Jeff Fradley and Danny McBride ask us to forget all those follow-ups and view their 2018 Halloween as the one true sequel. The film scared the bejeezus out of audiences in the cinemas and now you can scream your lungs out in the comfort of your own home as it makes its home entertainment debut. I had a chance to look at the Blu-ray version of the film.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The production was shot digitally and the transfer looks great. Overall the video presentation is crisp and clean and detailed, with only a few bits of softness here and there. Facial features look great and environmental textures, whether they be natural or man-made, reveal their details perfectly. The colour palette is natural, whether it be the skin tones or the appropriately abundant amount of blood, and dark levels are excellent. Digital noise is also absent except for some tiny amounts that are barely worth mentioning.
Horror films scare as much with the ears as with the eyes, so let’s check out the audio side. The disc comes with an English DTS:X soundtrack, an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The DTS:X soundtrack, for those with the right equipment, adds height to the soundscape, but except for a few moments, they’re not given much of a workout. However, the regular surround channels do put you in the centre of the action and music and dialogue is well presented too. The lower frequencies could use a bit more oomph here and there but this is still a great soundtrack.
On the extras side, Halloween provides us with a DVD copy and a digital download code. There’s a collection of extended and deleted scenes, featurettes on the making of the film, Jamie Lee Curtis’ character and Meyers’ mask and a look at how the original score informed the new one.
The 2018 Halloween has a fantastic video presentation, a very good audio presentation, all the while renewing interest in Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. If you like a good scream, you’ll want to add this to your collection.