Evans Above

Nov 21, 2018

Robin Williams: Comic Genius DVD Review

Robin Williams: Comic Genius

Robin Willams: Comic Genius available from Time Life.

Fans of the late, great Robin Williams can rejoice with the release of Time Life’s Robin Williams: Comic Genius, which collects over 50 hours of his TV work, including all five of his HBO stand-up specials, talk show and late night performances, as well as backstage footage and interviews with friends like Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Martin Short and Jay Leno. There’s also eleven episodes of Mork & Mindy (including the two-part pilot), James Lipton’s ninety minute interview with Robin on Inside the Actors Studio, a collection of his USO shows before troops around the world, various promos and featurettes produced for this exclusive collection.

The 22 DVD collection also includes the HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind that was directed by Emmy winner Marina Zenovich and produced by Oscar winner Alex Gibney. The collection also includes a 24-page book with photos from Arthur Grace, tour notes and more.

Capturing this much of Robin’s electric energy is like shoving the sun into a soda bottle, but the folks at Time Life have carefully curated this amazing collection. Available exclusively at robinwilliams.com, the 50+ hour, 22 DVD set is $199.90 US or, if you prefer, five payments of $39.98 US. If you have a Robin Williams fan on your holiday shopping list or you want to treat yourself, then this DVD set is worth looking into.

Robin Williams: Comic Genius is also available as a 12 disc 30+ hour Collector’s Set, retailing at $99.95 US. This is the item that we had for review. It includes the five HBO specials, footage from the USO tours, the featurettes, archival footage of early stand-up work, the first six episodes of Mork & Mindy, the best of his work on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and SNL, interviews with Jay Leno, Pam Dawber, Lewis Black and David Steinberg and the HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind.

Depending on the era of the footage, aspect ratios range from 1.33:1 (4:3) to 1.77:1 (16:9), while audio can be either Dolby Digital Mono or Stereo. Transfer quality also depends on the age of the source material. The audio levels are good which is important with a comedian whose performances go a mile a minute.

Watching Williams spin his comic masterpieces at breakneck speed is eminently satisfying and whether he’s doing it on stage or on the couch next to a talk show host, he never fails to assault your funny bone. Williams gave us some great comedic and dramatic performances on film, but watching this collection takes us back to the genesis of his art. Whoopi Goldberg said “He’s kind of like Camelot, one brief shining moment known as Robin Williams and we got to see it.” With Time Life’s Robin Williams: Comic Genius, you’ll be able to see it again and again.

Nov 08, 2018

BlacKkKlansman Blu-ray review

From director Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman examines race relations in America during the Seventies. John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth, Colorado Springs’ first black cop, who begins to form a relationship with the local Ku Klux Klan chapter over the phone. When he obviously can’t meet them in person, he gets a Jewish cop, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), to handle that end of things. The two men work to keep their identities a secret while getting closer to the KKK’s national leader David Duke, played here by Topher Grace.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot on film, the transfer to digital is nearly flawless. Details are sharp, whether they be the pores on faces, the textures of clothing or the natural and man-made locations. There’s a light film grain, which along with the colour palette, makes us feel a bit like we’re watching one of the politically-charged films from the Seventies. There are no compression artifacts to speak of and they only slight issue is some black levels in low light scenes. Other than that, this is a great film-to-digital transfer.

On the audio side of things, we get an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack as well as a French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 track and a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The soundscape created on this disc puts the viewer in the centre of the action, from a rally to the busy clatter of the police station. Low-end frequencies give the required scenes the extra weight they need. The movie’s music sounds great and the dialogue, so important when phone calls are important plot points, is clear and centred.

Besides a digital download code, the film also contains interviews with the cast and production team as well as an extended trailer.

A great Spike Lee film with a great video and audio transfer, BlacKkKlansman is a worthy addition to your home video library.

Nov 07, 2018

Christopher Robin Blu-ray review

In Christopher Robin, Ewan McGregor is the adult version of the titular character. Now a manager at a company facing layoffs, Christopher is dealing with a great amount of stress when he gets visited by his honey-loving childhood friend, Winnie the Pooh. Pooh helps him reconnect with his inner child and, more importantly, his family. The story is now available to take home in a Blu-ray combo pack, which includes a DVD and digital download code.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is very good and Winnie the Pooh and the gang blend perfectly with their live action surroundings. The detail on these characters is excellent and the fur fabric hairs move independently and realistically. The colour palette is muted, but again details are very clear and the movie just looks charming.

On the audio side, we get an English 7.1 DTS-HDMA soundtrack as well as a 2.0 descriptive audio track and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French and Spanish.

Besides coming with a DVD and digital download code, the extras include looks at how the characters are brought to life, a history of the voice actors who have played Pooh, and a look at the love Walt Disney had for this iconic character.

Great for families, and with good video and audio presentations, Christopher Robin is a good addition to your Disney home library.

Incredibles 2 Blu-ray review

Fourteen years after The Incredibles introduced us to the Parr family, Incredibles 2 revisits our favourite superheroes to see what’s up. Apparently, superheroes are on the outs with society and the Parrs find themselves out of a job. When the family matriarch, Helen a.k.a. Elastigirl, gets offered a new gig fighting crime, Bob (Mr. Incredible) must deal with his jealousy and brood of superhero kids. You can take their adventures home now, as Disney released a Blu-ray, DVD, digital download multi-screen edition on November 6th, 2018.

The disc’s 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is released in the movie’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Details in this transfer are great, whether they be fabrics, scene environments, or aspects of the characters. The colour palette is bold and vibrant, which befits the whole superhero theme and comic book inspiration. Black levels are nice and deep, especially in night scenes and any digital noise and banding is so brief as to not be worth mentioning. So why the heck did I mention it? All in all, you’ll be pleased with this presentation.

So, your eyes will be pleased, but what about your ears? The Blu-ray comes with multiple soundtracks, including an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track and Dolby Digital 2.0 descriptive audio track and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. On the subtitle front, there are English, English SDH, French, and Spanish captions. Like many recent Disney titles, the output volume mix is a little lower, which means you’ll have to crank your system up a little more than recent non-Disney discs. Once you’ve done that, the surround speakers are put to good use, though low end frequencies that boost the explosions, punches and superhero antics could use a little more oomph in the mix. The dialogue is centred and clear.

On the extras side, there are extras on the main disc as well as a second bonus disc. The combo pack also comes with a DVD and a digital download code. The main disc includes the animated shorts BAO and Auntie Edna as well as a lesson in animation from director Brad Bird and his commentary track. The bonus disc includes a series of featurettes exploring the making of the film and the short BAO, as well as the production design. There are also deleted scenes, vintage toy commercials, promos and trailers and cast and crew interviews.

When you take a story the whole family can watch and toss in great video and audio presentations, adding Incredibles 2 to your home entertainment library is a no-brainer.

Oct 23, 2018

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again Blu-ray review

I was never a big fan of ABBA. At least that’s what I told my friends and myself, but strangely I seem to know a lot of the lyrics and find my foot tapping when they come on the radio. Maybe I have to deal with this, but the therapy can be helped by the Blu-ray release of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: Sing-Along Edition on October 23rd, 2018.

The movie’s AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The digitally shot production results in a transfer that is full of crisp details. The colour palette pops off the screen and the ocean water looks particularly beautiful. The video presentation doesn’t exhibit any compression issues and it’s a joy to look at.

On the audio side of things, your ears have a choice of English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. You’d expect that a musical would pay attention to the sound and your expectations will be met. The music and lyrics are crisp and clear and rich and your surround speakers will immerse you in the Greek environment so much that you’ll be checking your credit card bill for airline tickets. In addition to the music, dialogue is also clear and centred.

When it comes to extras, you won’t be disappointed, starting with a DVD copy and a digital download code. There’s a bunch of deleted and extended scenes and songs, about 46 minutes of sing-alongs which offer onscreen lyrics to help you test your vocals, and various featurettes that cover costumes, choreography and cast interviews. There are also a couple of commentary tracks.

With dazzling vistas and toe-tapping numbers presented with an excellent soundtrack, fans of the Swedish pop stars will not be upset adding Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again to their home entertainment libraries.

Oct 15, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp Blu-ray review

When Ant-Man came out in 2015, I found it a nice blast of fresh air. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe as much as the next fan, but I guess Paul Rudd’s comedic energy was a nice addition to the genre. A sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, was out earlier this year and will be released for home entertainment on October 16th, 2018. I checked out the Blu-ray edition.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is great, with sharp details on natural and man-made items and in the computer-generated effects. Skin tones look good, contrast is excellent and the black levels nice and deep. The colour pallete is dazzling and there really isn’t anything to complain about in terms of digital noise or artifacts. All in all, it’s just a stunning visual presentation.

On the audio side of things, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French, Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The soundtrack is immersive, making good use of the surround soundscape to put you in the centre of the action. The low-end could use a little more oomph in some of the action scenes, but then again, “oomph” isn’t a scientific term so who’s to say? Dialogue is clear and centred and the musical store has very good clarity and tone. A very enjoyable audio presentation.

As far as extras go, there’s a few things that come with the disc and a few more that can be downloaded when you redeem the included digital code. There’s a director’s intro from Peyton Reed, interviews with the cast and crew about the vibe on set, a look at Evangeline Lilly and her Wasp suit, a piece on Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas, gag reels, some additional featurettes and deleted scenes. Using the download code, you also have access to a look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s past decade, the Online Close-Up Magic University and director Peyton Reed.

A gorgeous visual presentation, a very good audio mix, laughs and action. You’ll want to add Ant-Man and the Wasp to your home library.

Sep 23, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray review

During production, it sometimes seemed that most of the drama with Solo: A Star Wars Story was happening behind the scenes. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of The Lego Movie had creative differences with Lucasfilm over the standalone’s tone and direction and the production was then put in the hands of Ron Howard. Critics and fans had mixed reactions, but with Disney releasing 4K and Blu-ray versions on September 25th, you can take it home and decide for yourself. Father and son screenwriters Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan have done a good job of balancing new elements with the Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) backstory die-hard fans think they know by heart. We’re taking a look at the Blu-ray version.

The movie’s AVC-encoded transfer is released in the theatrical version’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Digitally shot, the transfer is full of detail, from the wear and tear on worn fabrics to the scrapes and dings on older vessels and droids. The underworld that Han Solo operates in is a dark place and the resulting colour palette is a bit flat with the occasional pop of colour from Lando Calrissian’s more colourful wardrobe. Black levels are a bit off witch means that details are sometimes lost in the darkest of scenes. There is also some occasional noise.

On the audio side of things, the disc offers an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, and Spanish. While the video presentation isn’t exactly reference level, the audio side is a blast. Like several recent Disney releases, the audio is a little quieter at usual volume levels but cranking it up a bit (not to 11, Nigel) solves those issues. Ambient sounds make excellent use of your surround speakers, enveloping the listener in laser blasts, reverberations and natural environments. The explosions and other fun moments make good use of your subwoofer. Music is of course an important part of the Star Wars experience and here it is given great clarity. Dialogue is also crisp and clear.

Besides getting a download code for a digital copy, Solo: A Star Wars Story also comes with a second disc full of extras. There’s a 21 minute round-table with the cast moderated by Rom Howard. The Kasdan’s discuss working together and their love of the franchise. We get to see the build process for the Millennium Falcon, as well as several timeline breakdowns of key scenes. We also get deleted scenes.

Solo: A Star Wars Story to your collection. Fire up the popcorn and have a good time.

Aug 05, 2018

Breaking In Blu-ray review

Breaking In is a competent thriller about a mother (Gabrielle Union) who finds herself on the outside of her well-protected home while her children are facing threats from home invaders. In order to protect her children, she must break in to her own home, hence the title. The movie ticks off all the necessary genre boxes without much flair. The title is now available in a Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download combo pack from Universal Home Entertainment. Let’s look at this release from a technical perspective.

The disc contains two versions of the film, one 88 minutes and an 89 minute director’s cut. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in the movie’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is quite flawless, with only a very rare amount of aliasing in some scenes. Details are crisp and clear, whether it’s natural surfaces, structural textures or facial features. The colours are natural and the black levels are excellent, which is important given the number of nighttime scenes. It’s an excellent video presentation.

Moving over to the audio side of things, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The 5.1 soundtrack is workmanlike. It gets the job done but you’re not going to be knocked off your feet by it. Dialogue is clear and centred, low frequency elements add some “oomph” when needed and the amount of ambient material in the surround tracks does its job.

The disc has a small collection of extras as well as a DVD copy and a digital download code. There are two versions of the film, the theatrical release and one more minute of action that qualifies it as an unrated director’s cut. The extras also include an optional opening with commentary from director James McTeigue and writer Ryan Engle, deleted extra scenes (again with commentary), a featurette on Gabrielle Union and female empowerment, a look at McTeigue’s take on the story, a piece on the action scenes, another look at Union and finally a full audio commentary track from McTeigue and Engle.

If you like having a very complete library and love Gabrielle Union, then you’ll want to add Breaking In to your library. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to catch the film on a streaming service.

Jun 05, 2018

Peter Pan Anniversary Edition Blu-ray review

Celebrating it’s 65th birthday, Peter Pan joins Disney’s Signature Collection with an Anniversary Edition Blu-ray combo pack.

Like many releases from the Signature Collection, Peter Pan has the same video and audio presentation of the classic film’s initial Blu-ray release (2013) but adds to the legacy extras with a new bunch of extra material.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, just a hair off the film’s original ratio of 1.37:1. This was the ratio back then so those expecting a widescreen presentation can stop hitting their TVs. The presentation has been cleaned up, removing the film’s original grain, so purists will have something to argue over besides whether or not the M&M’s should go in the popcorn or not. Besides that quibble, the colours are rich and deep. There’s excellent contrast and the black levels are deep. The detail of the hand-drawn line art is well-preserved and there’s nary a moment of artifacts or other digital glitches.

On the audio side we get a Dolby Digital version of the movie’s original mono soundtrack as well as an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, and Spanish. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track does a great job of putting the film into a modern soundscape while remaining true to the original. The surround tracks do a good job of giving a 65-year-old film some ambient effects. The musical numbers sound great while the low-frequency parts give a little oomph when needed. Dialogue is clear and centred.

The Anniversary Edition also comes with a DVD version and a digital download code. As mentioned earlier, the Anniversary Edition includes a handful of new supplements that weren’t on the previous 2013 release. “Stories from Walt’s Office: Walt & Flight” is a featurette that looks at the filmmaker’s fascination with flight and love of airplanes. Then there’s “A Darling Conversation with Wendy & John: Kathryn Beaumont and Paul Collins”, which reunites two of the voice talent as they talk about their work and the live action scenes that were shot to help the animators. The disc also features sing-along versions of “You Can Fly” and the deleted “Never Smile at a Crocodile.” Legacy supplements include a look at deleted scenes, deleted songs, the making of the film, a look at Tinker Bell, audio commentary, sing-alongs and many others.

If you bought the first Blu-ray release in 2013 and the extra supplements don’t make you want to fly, then you can give this release a pass. But if this is the first time you’re discovering the original Peter Pan on Blu-ray and you want a complete Disney library, you’ll want to add this Disney classic to your collection. A warning to parents that I gave in the review of the 2013 release and that still isn’t addressed in the new supplementary material: this film is a product of its time and the film’s portrayal of Native Americans is stereotypical and viewed by many as racist especially in the “What Makes the Red Man Red?” musical number. Though there’s no revisionism in this release and we’re seeing the film as it was intended to be seen in the Fifties, I am a little surprised that Disney handled the controversy by ignoring it. Surely there could have been a small bonus feature on the disc that parents and teachers could have used as a discussion point.

A Wrinkle in Time Blu-ray review

A Wrinkle in Time is based on the classic Madeleine L’Engle novel and as an adaptation faced some critics who said it deviated too far from its source material. If you’ve never read the book, or can look upon it as a distinct piece separate from the book, you’ll find a tender story about a girl’s self discovery. It’s now available as a Blu-ray combo pack from Disney.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented in the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, the transfer is rightfully pretty flawless with nothing of note to report in terms of digital noise. The palette explodes off the screen but still doesn’t lose its nuance. The detail on everything from clothing to makeup to environment is crisp and textured. Shadow detail is excellent and black levels are very strong. If we were marking the video presentation, it would be at the top of its class.

On the audio side, Disney gives us an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, and Spanish. Like many of the recent Disney releases this disc is a little on the quiet side, so you’ll be turning your system up a bit. Once you’ve done that, you’ll find a soundtrack whose music fills the soundscape. Surround tracks pull you in to the otherworldly destinations and the low frequencies will give your subwoofer an appropriate workout. Dialogue is always clear and centred.

Besides the Blu-ray disc, the combo pack also comes with a DVD version of the film and a digital download code. There’s a half-hour featurette on the film’s production, deleted scenes, and commentary from director Ava DuVernay, screenwriter Jennifer Lee and other members of the production team. There’s also bloopers and music videos from DJ Khaled and Demi Lovato as well as Chloe X Halle.

A Wrinkle in Time has an excellent video presentation, a very good audio presention and a fair amount of extra material. Those willing to look past a less than perfect adaptation from the novel will enjoy adding it to their collection.

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