Sep 19, 2020
Fans of the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, have eagerly been waiting for Universal Home Entertainment’s 4K The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection. I was given the opportunity to get a look at this amazing set of four films: Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds, and Psycho.
Let’s take a look at the individual movies in this collection, starting with Rear Window. The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is in the theatrical release’s original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This James Stewart/Grace Kelly vehicle has never looked better for home consumption. The clarity and detail is impressive, from items in the apartment, their hair and skin textures, and their wardrobes. The HDR10 colour grading makes for a pleasing palette, ranging from rich browns to the pleasing pop of Kelly’s clothes and makeup. The black levels are deep, with no loss of detail in shadows and no sign of crushing. The restoration done to the print before the transfer makes for an impeccable video presentation.
On the audio side, Rear Window comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English SDH as well as French and Spanish. Some may have longed for a 5.1 surround update to the track, but the way I see it, most of the action takes place through Stewart’s camera lens – mono seems appropriate. Mono doesn’t mean it lacks detail though. The sounds are crisp and clear, from dialogue and music to the sounds of the city and the neighbours across the way.
As for extras, there’s a Blu-ray copy as well as a digital code. Additional features are on the 4K disc and include Rear Window Ethics: Remembering and Restoring a Hitchcock Classic, A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes, Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of the Master, Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Masters of Cinema, Production Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, Re-Release Trailer with narration by James Stewart, and audio commentary by John Fawell.
Vertigo once again teams Hitchcock with James Stewart, who plays a detective with a fear of heights hired to keep an old friend’s wife (Kim Novak) from committing suicide. That simple premise evolves into a study of obsession, identity, fears, and flaws.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture is beautifully sharp and crystal-clear. There’s detail all around from the skin textures and textiles to the man-made and natural environments. The colour palette, aided by the HDR10 colour grading, is wide and dynamic, from lush greens and sunny sky blues, to a rainbow of dresses and the rich woods of furniture. Black levels are deep, with details in the shadows and no evident crushing. There’s a fine grain from the source material, but no digital artifacts or signs of compression. It’s as lovely as Kim Novak.
On the audio side, your speakers can play with English DTS:X and DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 tracks as well as English, French and Spanish DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH as well as French and Spanish. The height speakers of the DTS:X track really come to play in the bell tower scene, while the other surrounds spend the film subtly placing you in the environment. The score is clear and dynamic, the subwoofers give extra authority when needed and dialogue is clear and centred.
As for extras, there’s a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. The 4K disc includes all of the Blu-ray’s extras, except for some archives that are only on the Blu-ray. The supplemental material includes Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece, Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborations, a foreign censorship alternate ending, Hitchcock/Truffaut, a theatrical trailer, a trailer from the restoration release, 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era, and audio commentary by William Friedkin.
Up next is Psycho, the film that perfectly cast, and typecast, Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. The grandparent of the slasher film genre, it starts off following Janet Leigh as a woman who has made off with a large sum of money to start a new life with her lover. Checking into the Bates Motel, she meets both the meek yet troubled proprietor, Norman, and her demise, in a scene that made people scared to hop in the shower for years. What follows is a story that peels away the complex psychological layers of Norman, the ultimate mama’s boy.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp and the black and white presentation looks amazing. Furnishings, the motel and skin textures have a great amount of fine detail. The HDR grading, which we often think of as boosting colour, works its magic with the grayscale, from brilliant whites down to inky blacks. Detail is not lost in shadows or darker scenes. There’s the odd bit of noise from the source film, but other than that this is a very impressive video presentation.
On the audio side, there’s are English DTS:X, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and DTS 2.0 Mono tracks as well as DTS 2.0 Mono tracks in French and Spanish. Subtitles are available for English SDH as well as French and Spanish. It’s a front-heavy mix, based on its mono roots, but the surround and height channels have been used subtly to bring some sense of ambient sound into the suspenseful proceedings. The score soars here with nice dynamics and clarity. Dialogue is clear and centred.
Psycho comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. There are two cuts of the film available, the original unedited cut and a cut that most people are familiar with that appeared on TV and some previous home entertainment releases. The special features include The Making of Psycho, Psycho Sound, In the Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho, The Shower Scene: With and Without Music, The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass, The Psycho Archives, a collection of ads and poster, lobby cards, behind-the-scenes and production photographs, original Psycho trailers, the re-release trailers, and audio commentary by Stephen Rebello.
Last but not least is The Birds. Socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) heads to a quiet California coastal town to present a lawyer she met, Mitch (Rod Taylor), with a pair of lovebirds. If it wasn’t enough to contend with both his possessive mother (Jessica Tandy) and jealous ex (Suzanne Pleshette), Melanie also has to deal with the areas birds flocking together and horrifically attacking people. Hitchcock makes the attacks brutal and horrifying and the feeling of being trapped only adds to the sheer madness of it all.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 digital transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is mostly crystal-clear, with just a fine film grain from the source material. The scenery, characters’ faces, environmental elements, and textiles all have good detail but the video presentation does have moments where parts of the image looks flat and smoothed and some of the optical effects stand out more due to the clarity of the rest of the image. The HDR punches up the colour palette, from bright whites and black levels with excellent shadow details to good skin tones and clothing. It may not get bonus marks for some of the moments of softness, but it’s still the best home media version of The Birds yet.
On the audio side, your ears get the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono track as well as French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Japanese DTS 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. The original mono track is clear and the sound effects only add to the horror with the score adding to build he suspense. Dialogue is crystal-clear as well.
The Birds comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. Special features on the 4K disk include The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie, All About The Birds, Tippi Hedren’s screen test, a deleted scene, the film’s original ending, Hitchcock/Truffaut interview, two newsreels called The Birds Is Coming and Suspense Story: National Press Club Hears Hitchcock, the theatrical trailer, 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics, and 100 Years of Universal: The Lot. Two additional extras – storyboards and production photographs – only appear on the Blu-ray disc.
Unfortunately, the discs are tightly stored in sleeves which may necessitate adding fingerprints to the back of the discs in order to get them out. I would have liked to see a collection of this stature storing their discs in individual spindles.
Fans of Hitchcock obviously want all of the director’s catalog released on 4K yesterday. But Universal’s The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection, with its excellent video and audio presentations, is a very good start and a worth addition to your home entertainment library.
Sep 15, 2020
Paramount is releasing five of horror master Stephen King’s stories in one set, the aptly-named Stephen King 5-Movie Collection. It features The Dead Zone, Silver Bullet, The Stand, 1989’s Pet Sematary, and 2019’s Pet Sematary. Paramount Home Entertainment sent me a copy for review purposes. Four of the movies have been on Blu-ray before, while The Dead Zone’s Blu-ray is new to the U.S. market.
Let’s take a look at The Dead Zone first. Directed by David Cronenberg, it stars Christopher Walken as a man with the ability to see into the future. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, differing slightly from the theatrical release’s 1.85:1 ratio. Sadly, it’s not a great transfer, which is a shame for a newly done disc. It appears that the source for the transfer could have benefited from a good restoration. Though there is some sharp detail and good colours at times, at other points in the film the image appears soft and smoothed. There are noticeable dust and fibers at times and digital noise reduction is evident. We’ll have to await a better transfer that will do the film justice.
The audio side, on the other hand, is quite good, with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as well as a French Dolby Digital Mono track. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, and French. The original audio material has been massaged into a 5.1 soundscape and they’ve done a pretty good job of making the aural experience immersive. The score sounds clear and dynamic, while the dialogue is centred and well-prioritized.
As for extras, well, there are none.
Silver Bullet is up next. A serial killer is terrorizing a small town, which is home to Jane (Megan Follows) , her paraplegic brother, Marty (Corey Haim), and their Uncle Red (Gary Busey). When Marty is attacked by the killer, a werewolf, it’s up to him to convince the others of what he saw.
This release shares the same 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer used by last year’s Scream Factory release. Presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer has good detail, from weathered faces, werewolf hair, and the Maine environs. The colour palette, including the rich greens of the forest, look good and the black levels give detail to even the darkest scenes.
On the audio side, the disc comes with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono soundtrack and English SDH subtitles. It does a great job of filling your front speakers with crisp story elements and the dialogue is crystal-clear.
Sadly, the Silver Bullet disc comes with no extra features.
Coming up to bat next is The Stand, 1994’s six-hour, four-episode end-of-days miniseries. It’s the story of a government-created super flu that gets out of the secret lab and devastates 99% of the population. The survivors in the U.S. soon find themselves in two factions, one led by a nun in Nebraska and the other led by an authoritarian figure in Las Vegas. This battle of good vs evil stars Ruby Dee, Jamey Sheridan, Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Corin Nemec, Adam Storke, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, and Laura San Giacomo.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in the original broadcast 1.33:1 aspect ratio, which means there will be vertical black bars on each side of the image. Shot on film, there’s a light grain and some occasional marks from a bad print, but textures and clarity are quite good. Colours pop when necessary, and black levels are fairly good, exhibiting some crush in darker scenes. Despite the fact this is a six-hour series crammed onto one disc, the compression still leaves us with a pretty good overall image.
The Stand was obviously intended to air in many markets, so we have English, German and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks with English SDH, German, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish subtitles. A lossless main track would have been nice but they’ve crammed six hours of material onto one disc. The soundtrack doesn’t have much oomph to it. It’s flat and though there’s some occasional use of left and right speakers to place elements, nothing really shines. The score lacks a dynamic punch, but dialogue is clear. Some of these complaints could probably have been alleviated a bit of we could have had less compression by spreading the series over two discs.
As for extras, well, The Stand actually has two supplements, an audio commentary from writer Stephen King and director Mick Garris, and a short making-of featurette.
We then take a visit to 1989’s Pet Sematary. The Creed family (Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby, Blaze Berdahl, and Miko Hughes) have moved into a rural home nest to a busy roadway that provides a steady stream of newcomers for the pet cemetery next door. The home also comes with a mysterious elderly neighbour (Fred Gwynne) and a mystery beyond the cemetery that may endanger the whole family.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is fairly good, especially on daylight scenes with nice greens and blues in the colour palette. In darker scenes, there is a bit of crush in the blacks and they occasionally look a little washed out. Detail is fairly good, though there is some smoothing in some areas. There’s a light film grain from the source and the transfer does look like there’s some edge enhancement.
Your speakers are given the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, a French Dolby Digital 2.0 track and Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is quite good, with the surrounds putting you in the middle of the scary situations. The subwoofer gives some extra gravitas when needed and the overall ambient effects are excellent. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.
On the extras side, there’s audio commentary from director Mary Lambert, Stephen King discussing his inspirations, Lambert, King, and the cast discussing the characters and a making-of featurette.
And that leads us to the final part of the collection, the 2019 remake of Pet Sematary. This time the Creed family is played by Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jeté Laurence, and Hugo & Lucas Lavoie, while John Lithgow takes on the role of the elderly neighbour. While the remake loses some plot point from the 1989 version, it adds in some others missing from the original film. All in all, it feels less unique and more like a product of the factory that produces so many films in this genre. Apparently people need to be frightened a lot these days and so there’s a cinematic conveyor belt.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, this is the better of the video transfers in this collection. There is clarity and detail and good textures in textiles, facial surfaces and environmental elements. The colour palette is quite natural and the black levels are good with no obvious loss of detail in darker scenes.
On the audio side, this is the best audio presentation of the collection. There is an English Dolby Atmos soundtrack and an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track as well as German, Spanish, Spanish (Latin American), French, French (Canadian), Italian, and Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The main track is immersive, with great ambient effects, and the low-end adds an ominous feel to many a scene. The music is clear and dynamic and dialogue is centred and well-prioritized.
This disc also has the best selection of extras, with an alternate ending, deleted and extended scenes, a look at three characters facing their fears, The Tale of Timmy Baterman, and a four-part featurette looking at various aspects of the production.
The Stephen King 5-Movie Collection is a great starter for someone new to Stephen King who’d like to own five of his films in one fell swoop, but this is not the definitive edition for these five films.
Sep 14, 2020
William Wyler’s 1953 classic romantic comedy Roman Holiday has spawned many lesser imitators that try to capture its story of a person of wealth and status trying to experience a “normal life.” They generally fail because they lack many things: William Wyler’s directorial touch, Gregory Peck’s leading man magnetism and charm, Eddie Albert’s comic chops, and, above all else, the absolute sweet delight that is the breakthrough performance by Audrey Hepburn. The movie has finally been given a Blu-ray release by Paramount. Those in the U.S. or shopping through importers can get their hands on the limited-edition Paramount Presents version with some extra add-ons. I had a chance to review the standard Blu-ray.
If you somehow missed seeing Roman Holiday over the years, it tells the story of Princess Ann (Hepburn), currently representing her unnamed European country on a goodwill tour throughout Europe. Stuffy dinners, boring speeches, and meaningless small talk have the young royal bored out of her tree. She wants to experience Europe outside her gilded cage and escapes from the embassy. When she gets into a situation, she’s rescued by struggling reporter Joe Bradley (Peck). When he realizes who he’s with, the question becomes will he sell her out for a big story or will his heart take him elsewhere. The sights and sounds of a gorgeous Rome provide the perfect backdrop to the antics that follow.
The 1080p AVC-encoded digital transfer is in the film’s original 1.37:1 aspect ratio which for newcomers to older film means that the image will be flanked by vertical black bars. This is an amazing restoration, a 4K scan from a dupe negative, with scratches and other damage carefully removed in processing. The black-and-white film has amazing detail and apart from when it originally released in theatres this is the best presentation you’re going to see, from textiles to environmental elements. The image simply looks great from the clean whites to the deep blacks and every level of gray in-between.
On the audio side, the disc comes with the choice of an English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono soundtrack and German, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Again, for the newcomer to this sort of soundtrack, it’s mono, meaning your surround speakers and subwoofer can take the night off. The dialogue is crisp and clean, the score is clear and dynamic. It’s a great presentation of an original mono track.
A great thing about this disc is that it restores the writing and story credit of Dalton Trumbo, whose name wasn’t on the film as he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era. There’s an extra on the disc that goes into his story. Speaking of extras, they include Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Roman Holiday, Behind the Gates: Costumes, Rome with a Princess, Audrey Hepburn: The Paramount Years, Dalton Trumbo: From A-List to Blacklist, Paramount in the ’50s: Remembering Audrey, Theatrical Trailers and four photo galleries: Production, The Movie, Publicity, The Premiere.
A gorgeous Blu-ray presentation, a crisp and clean mono and a variety of extras coupled with a fantastic movie, means you should drop what you’re doing and order Roman Holiday now. You won’t be disappointed.
Sep 12, 2020
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, sees Guy Ritchie once again directing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as the legendary detective and his put-upon friend. This time around, Holmes and Watson must stop the evil Dr. Moriarty (Jared Harris). Moriarty plans to profit off Europe’s geopolitical and social unrest by attempting to start a war. Noomi Rapace and Stephen Fry also join the cast as a fortune-teller and Sherlock’s old brother respectively. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has now released a 4K combo pack of the movie, and while WBHE sent us a review copy to check out, the views below are my own.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded 4K HDR10 transfer is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This is an upscaled 4K presentation as post-production was with a 2K digital intermediate. The look of the video presentation is a result of the stylistic choices of Ritchie and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot. The colour palette once again leans heavily on grey and sepia tones with the occasional pop of rich primaries, while the HDR10 adds extra highlights to explosions and the odd amount of sun. Skin textures and environmental elements are sharp and detailed, but due to the upscaled nature of the transfer aren’t as vast an improvement over the Blu-ray as if this was a native 4K shoot. Black levels are deep and not much detail is lost in the darkest scenes. There isn’t any noticeable amount of digital noise or compression artifacts, though as some elements were shot on 35mm, there is some fine grain.
On the audio side, we are getting the same English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack that was on the Blu-ray release and once again it would have been nice if the 4K had a Dolby Atmos or DTS-X track. Additional tracks are available in French, German, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Thai: Dolby Digital 5.1, while subtitles are available in English SDH, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified and Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and finally, Thai. The surround speakers are used to provide ambient sounds but this is a front-heavy mix that doesn’t pan the action through the surrounds that much. The low frequency add the necessary oomph when called upon and the Hans Zimmer score is clear and dynamic. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized.
On the extra side, we get a Blu-ray disc and a digital code. The supplemental features are the same as the 2012 Blu-ray as, the same with the first film, the Blu-ray is the 2012 release. There’s Maximum Movie Mode, which provides a picture-in-picture commentary from Robert Downey Jr., and Focus Points, which is essentially the highlights from the commentary. There’s also a 2012 era app, which I didn’t have a chance to see if it still worked.
The Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 4K look great and the desire for an Atmos track is more a wish than a quibble. If you’re a fan of the series, of Ritchie, or just like a good adventure, you’ll want to add this to your collection.
Guy Ritchies’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes, which stars Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams, sees Holmes and Watson taking on a case that has occultists threatening the seat of power in the UK. The high energy adventure has now been given the 4K Ultra HD treatment by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. I was given a review copy of the disc by WBHE, but as always the opinions below are my own.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The image has a great amount of detail in skin, textiles and environmental elements but it’s not a vast improvement over the previous Blu-ray as the movie was shot in 2K, so this transfer is an upscaling. The colour palette has an almost sepia tone look to it, which is a stylistic choice that helps bring you into the era and the damp, foggy gloom of its London. When there is a pop of colour, it’s noticeable and the HDR10 does it’s stuff with adding some zing to the highlights, as in moments where the sun peeks out from a cloud or light reflects off the water. The image does have some softness at times. Black levels are fairly good, though there is the occasional crushing. There doesn’t appear noticeable compression artifacts or digital noise and the image does have a slight film grain. It’s a very good video transfer and some of the aspects of it are due to artistic choices.
Your ears have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack or French, German, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, and Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified and Traditional), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, and Thai. The soundtrack is the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track as on the previous Blu-ray release. Though it would have been nice to update it to a Dolby Atmos or DTS-X soundtrack, this is still a very good soundtrack. The surround speakers put you in the action with good ambient placement and the low frequency moments will have your subwoofer adding some extra oomph in the action scenes. Dialogue is centred, clear, and well-prioritized and the score is clean and dynamic.
The 4K combo pack of Sherlock Holmes comes with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. There are no extras on the 4K disc, they’re all located on the Blu-ray disc. These extras are the same as on the 2010 Blu-ray because…wait for it…this is the 2010 Blu-ray. There’s a Maximum Movie Mode, a full-length picture-in-picture commentary from director Guy Ritchie, a Focus Points featurette that is essentially the best elements of the full-length commentary, and a short featurette on the production.
Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes gives us a lot of great action and a wonderful pairing in Downey Jr. and Law. With a great 4K video presentation and a good soundtrack, you won’t go wrong adding this 4K to your collection.
Sep 11, 2020
Richard Donner’s 1985 adventure The Goonies was an entertainment staple for kids growing up in the 1980s. Written by Chris Columbus and based on a story by executive producer Steven Spielberg, the movie’s cast features Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton and Ke Huy Quan as a group of friends in search of a long-lost treasure. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has now released a 4K version of this fun adventure. WBHE provided me with a review copy of this release, but the opinions below are my own.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded HDR10 transfer is in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This is a dark film, but I mean that literally not content-wise. Much of the adventure takes place in underground caves interspersed with shafts of light. The previous versions on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray looked a bit muddy, but this new 4K restoration gives us the best looking version of The Goonies. Facial textures, textiles, environmental elements and sets all impress with amazing detail. In a dark film, the contrast and black levels are important and they’re very good here with detail available in the shadows. Though the setting makes for a very muted colour palette, the HDR10 allows the golden treasure and other flashes of bright colours to pop. The transfer does have some film grain, but there’s nothing of much note here in terms of compression artifacts.
On the audio side, there’s a treasure trove of soundtracks available including an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack as well as French, Italian, Dutch, Castilian Spanish, and Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks and a Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track. There are subtitles in English SDH, French, Italian SDH, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Dutch, Traditional Mandarin, Korean, Czech, Romanian, and Thai. It’s a front heavy mix, with the surrounds giving some additional ambient placement and musical elements. The musical score sounds great and dialogue is centred and well-prioritized.
The Goonies 4K set comes with a copy of the 2010 Blu-ray release and a digital code. Extras are on the Blu-ray disc and include a “Hidden Treasures” viewing mode with pop-up clips, audio commentary by Richard Donner and the cast (Why is this not on the 4K), a “making of” featurette, deleted scenes, a trailer and the Cyndi Lauper music video for “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough”.
Whether you’re new to The Goonies or you watched it 100 times in the theatre and on VHS, you’ll want to add this 4K release to your collection.
In 1998, if you said “Beetlejuice!” three times the crazy character played by Michael Keaton would show up. In 2020, the same incantation gets you a Beetlejuice 4K UltraHD combo pack with a Blu-ray copy and a digital code. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment provided me with a copy of the movie to review, however, the opinions below are my own.
The movie, directed by Tim Burton, centres around a recently deceased couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) who are trying to get the current living occupants out of their former home. When ghosts need the living to vamoose, they of course hire a bio-exorcist. In this case, that job is handled by Beetlejuice (Keaton), who uses his crazy energy to scare the Deetz family, portrayed perfectly by Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder.
The 2160p HEVC / H.265-encoded transfer is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Beetlejuice’s imagery is mostly practical effects, using make-up, prosthetics, and models, and this new transfer captures them all with great detail and clarity. Skin textures, textiles, and the stunning sets all look great. The colour palette is well-served by the HDR10 colour enhancement which makes the vivid primary colours pop even more. The black levels are nice and deep and there’s no evidence of digital noise or compression artifacts that would effect the fine film grain visible in the transfer. Quite simply, Beetlejuice looks great.
Your ears are offered a veritable United Nations of sound track options. There are English Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 tracks, a Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and French, Canadian French, German, Italian, Latin Spanish, Castilian Spanish, and Czech Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. The subtitles are equally diverse, with English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai options. The main English track makes great use of its expanded soundscape, tossing you into the middle of the wacky escapades unfolding onscreen. Danny Elfman’s score sounds great with excellent dynamic range and clarity. Dialogue is centred and well-prioritized.
The extras are a little slim. Besides the digital code, there’s a copy of the film on Blu-ray, which is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This disc is the 2008 release and the special features are only on this disc. They include the theatrical trailer, an audio-only version of Elfman’s score, and three episodes of the Beetlejuice animated series.
An exceptional 4K video presentation and solid audio presentation make up for the deficit of extras. Beetlejuice in 4K is definitely worth adding to your home entertainment library.
Sep 07, 2020
Bad Education, which stars Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney, is based on the largest school embezzlement story in U.S. history. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019 and was picked up by HBO Films, which aired it in April of this year. Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is releasing a DVD of the film on September 8th, 2020 and while the characters in this film may not follow the rules, I’ll follow WBHE’s request to add a disclaimer: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy to review, but the opinions below are strictly my own.Hugh Jackman stars as Dr. Frank Tassone, a school superintendent in the Long Island town of Roslyn. Aided by his associate, Pam Gluckin (Janney), the charismatic and popular Tassone has helped raise the area’s test results to the fourth best in the country. The excellent scores make area students prime pickings for universities and homes in the area are sought after by parents, which is good news for real estate broker and school board president, Bob Spicer (Ray Romano). When a writer on the student paper, Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan), uncovers that Frank and Pam have been cooking the districts’ books for years for personal gain, Spicer and the board have to decide whether to keep it quiet to protect the school and their own interests.
Financial scandals don’t always make for interesting films, but Bad Education gets top marks because of its performances. Jackman’s natural charm might make playing Frank easy, but Jackman’s abilities as an actor help him create a character of depth, who is not only hiding the skimmed cash, but a complex series of items in his personal life. Allison Janney hits it out of the park as always – can she just be in everything? – and Ray Romano continues to impress with his post-sitcom choices.
On the technical side, this is a standard definition DVD release, so I won’t be gushing about the amazing textures and details like I would if this was a Blu-ray presentation. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does a solid job, considering this isn’t an action-packed Marvel film. Extras include a featurette on the actual scandal, a look at the real Tassone and Jackman’s character, and a virtual conversation between Jackman and Janney.
If you want to see some excellent performances, I’d recommend adding Bad Education to your collection.
Aug 24, 2020
The King of Staten Island, from director Judd Apatow, takes a semi-autobiographical look at Pete Davidson’s life. Davidson plays Scott, a 24-year-old who has been drifting through life since his father died fighting a hotel fire. He lives at home with his mother (Marisa Tomei) and his ambitious younger sister (Maude Apatow) and spends his days smoking weed, dreaming of being a tattoo artist and hanging with his friends. One of those friends is Kelsey (Bel Powley), a girl that Scott is wary of committing to. When Scott’s mom starts dating a firefighter, Ray (Bill Burr), Scott must finally confront his grief and how is life is going. The King of Staten has now been released by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray Combo Pack, which also includes a DVD and digital code.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is crystal clear, with excellent skin textures as well as textile and environmental surfaces. The colour palette moves from almost neutral tones to vivid hues depending on the context of the moment. Excellent black levels show shadowy detail and there are no digital noise or compression artifacts to speak of. It’s a good looking disc.
On the audio side, there’s an English Dolby Atmos TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack well as an English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are available for English SDH, French, and Spanish. Dialogue is clearly presented, centred and well-prioritized in the mix. The surrounds are well used for environmental ambient effects and as well as some of the musical elements. Music is dynamic and the low end is used to add some gravitas when necessary.
On the extras side, the Blu-ray comes with a DVD and a digital access code. There are deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a good variety of featurettes that look at the production, as well as a benefit stand-up performance for the FDNY, and a tribute to Pete Davidson’s father, Scott Davidson, a member of the FDNY who lost his life during the attacks on September 11th, 2001.
The King of Staten Island, has great performances, excellent audio and video presentations, and a good selection of extras. Recommended.
Aug 17, 2020
When I was a young boy, perhaps grade one or two, a teacher wrote on my report card that “Ian can sometimes be silly.” As someone who was doing comedy at a very young age, I saw it as a badge of honour. Sure, Monty Python could do a sketch about philosophers playing soccer, but they could also do the Norwegian fish dance. Silly can be good. No, silly can sometimes be the exact thing you need.
Airplane!, which is currently celebrating its 40th birthday, is a very silly movie. Exceedingly silly. I’m not putting it in the same temple of comedy as the Pythons, but damn it, it was a Norwegian fish dance.
If you’re in the US, or willing to go through an importer, Paramount is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Airplane!’s release with a new version on their limited edition Paramount Presents label. That release has a brand new 1080p transfer from a 4K remaster that was supervised by writer/directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, and David Zucker. Paramount is also promoting the previous Blu-ray release and I was able to get a copy from them to take a look at.
If you haven’t had a chance to see Airplane! in the past four decades, the plot, such as it is, is a very thin construct upon which a million jokes and sight gags have been affixed. Loosely based on the movie Zero Hour! written by Arthur Hailey (which in turn was based on Hailey’s teleplay Flight Into Danger on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), it follows former fighter pilot Ted Stryker (Robert Hays) traveling on a commercial flight. Because of an incident that happened in “the war”, Stryker has a fear of flying and a drinking problem. His girlfriend, Elaine (Julie Hagerty), has just broken up with him, but is also a flight attendant on the flight he’s on. When the crew becomes incapacitated, Ted and Elaine might be the only hope the passengers have of surviving.
One of the great bits of casting is the inclusion of dramatic actors like Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Peter Graves and Leslie Nielsen doing comedy for the first time. Seeing dramatic actors spoofing the disaster genre and delivering lines like “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley” gave the edge that had audiences falling out of their seats. Nielsen was able to parlay his appearance into a new career direction that capitalized on his deadpan comedy delivery and comedic courage to be up for anything.
Airplane! is –- and this is a very scientific term -– a hoot. It takes genre tropes and sacred cows and turns them into hamburgers with a side of curly fries. When it was added to the United States’ National Film Registry, the Library of Congress said that it, “introduced a much-needed deflating assessment of the tendency of theatrical film producers to push successful formulaic movie conventions beyond the point of logic”. That’s just librarian-speak for “It’s very silly.”
The Blu-ray I was sent was originally released in 2011. The 1080 AVC-encoded transfer was in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, differing slightly from the 1.85:1 ratio of the theatrical release. It’s a pretty clean transfer, not falling victim to a lot of digital noise reduction and smoothing, and preserving the appearance of the film grain. Good skin textures and detail are apparent throughout, whether it be textiles or scenery objects. The colour palette is subdued and the black levels are good.
On the audio side, you’re given the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack or French, Portuguese or Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The sound engineers have done a good job of moving the original soundtrack into the 5.1 format, moving sound effects and environmental elements into the surround soundscape. The music is dynamic and the joke-filled dialogue is clear, centred, and well-prioritized.
On the extras side, the 2011 version I reviewed had audio commentary from producer Jon Davison, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry and David Zucker. There’s a “Long Haul Version” that prompts viewers during the film to see deleted scenes and interviews, a pop-up trivia track, and a theatrical trailer.
Combine a film on the AFI’s Top 100 Comedies list with good video and audio presentations and fun extras, and you get a great way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Airplane! Collectors and Airplane! Fanatics will probably want to get their hands on the numbered Paramount Presents edition. Either way, you’ll have fun.