Evans Above

Dec 02, 2019

Gotham: The Complete Series Blu-ray review

Batman fans all know the origin story of Batman but what was Gotham like before the Caped Crusader donned his disguise? The WB series Gotham explored the mean streets of a city that the U.S. government essentially ceded to the bad guys over five seasons and 100 episodes. The series tracked the early police career of Jim Gordon and introduces us to Bruce Wayne and the misfits who would become Penguin, Ridder and Catwoman among others. Warner Bros has now released Gotham: The Complete Series on Blu-ray and DVD and we had a chance to review the Blu-ray version. As WB likes disclaimers, please note that while Warner Bros Home Entertainment provided us with a review copy of the product, the opinions contained below are mine alone.

The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is in the series’ original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is crisp and detailed bringing out every dirty environment in the city gone to hell. The colour palette is muted, but when needed the colours can pop. Skin tones are realistic and the black levels are nice and deep. There is no real worries with digital noise or compression artifacts.

On the audio side, there’s a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, while subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The soundscape is immersive, placing you in Gotham action so well that you’ll ask to vote there. The low frequencies get a workout during gunshots and fights, while dialogue is clear, centred and properly prioritized.

The extras are spread across the discs of the five seasons. Besides a digital code, viewers get the usual collection of gag reels, behind-the-scenes looks at the show, its production and design, featurettes giving us additional back stories on the characters and DC Universe and various panel and Comic-Con appearances.

Whether your a fan of the series or a newcomer looking to delve further into Batman’s past, the excellent video and audio presentation will make Gotham: The Complete Series a worthy addition to your DC collection.

The Big Bang Theory Complete Series Limited Edition Blu-ray review

The universe may have started with the big bang, but after twelve seasons the high-rated sitcom The Big Bang Theory finally came to an end. Fans waited in anticipation for a complete series Blu-ray to become available and their dreams came true with both a standard set and a limited edition collectible version that included twelve hours of bonus content, three new featurettes, a thirty-two page episode guide and behind-the-scenes photos, a lay-flat book featuring pop-up art and digital codes for all the episodes. As Warner Bros are sticklers for disclaimers, please note that while Warner Bros Home Entertainment provided us with a copy of this product for review purposes, the opinions expressed below are mine alone.

The 1080p transfer is AVC-encoded for all twelve seasons, except for season three, which is VC-1 encoded. The episodes are presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Though the very first episode was shot on film and exhibits some grain, the rest of the series was shot digitally and the transfer has the clarity and detail you would expect from a Blu-ray presentation. In fact, watching the series on Blu-ray will probably be a bit of an eye-opener as you realize how much cable TV compresses the image on all those late-night reruns. Clothing, hair, facial detail and environmental textures all stand out and there’s a natural colour palette. There’s no real sign of digital noise or compression artifacts.

On the audio side, your ears will get treated to an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, except for season three which has a lossy English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. There’s a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 track and subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. This is a sitcom and not an action movie, so your surround channels don’t get much of a workout. They’re used mostly for the musical intro, the spinning atom interstitials, and the reactions of the studio audience. Dialogue is clear and centred.

The packaging of the limited edition of the complete series comes with a hardbound book that contains the discs inserted behind some great photos from the show. There is also a 32-page episode guide with an introduction by show creator Chuck Lorre and behind-the-scenes photos. The over 12 hours of bonus materials are spread across the 24 Blu-ray discs, while the three new featurettes are inexplicably on a DVD. This new content consists of “The Big Bang Theory: A Retrospective” with insights from the cast and crew, “All the Stars in the BBT Universe” which highlights the great guest stars the series has had, and “BBT’s Greatest Hits: 12 Years of Comedy in 24 Minutes” which highlights the show’s greatest moments. The extras spread across the rest of the discs include gag reels, production discussions from Chuck Lorre, set tours, cast panels from Paley Fest, a tribute to the late Carol Ann Susi who voiced Howard’s unseen mother, various production insights and some of the cast and crew’s popular Comic-Con appearances. The set also comes with digital codes for the entire series. Please note that my set did not come with a digital code. I thought that was a manufacturing error but a friend pointed out that people on Amazon Canada were complaining of the same thing. American friends and American Amazon did not have this issue. The Canadian packaging clearly states that codes are included so I’ll be investigating this with WB.

Ignoring the possible Canadian-only glitch with the digital codes, The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series Limited Edition is a must-have for hard-core fans of the series, bringing you a great video presentation, crystal clear sound, a plethora of extras, and limited edition booklets and packaging.

Nov 18, 2019

The Kominsky Method Season 1 DVD review

Chuck Lorre has been very successful in comedy, bringing us laughs with The Big Bang Theory, Mom, and Two and a Half Men. He recently brought The Kominsky Method to Netflix and it won a Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series, while star Michael Douglas won Best Actor in a TV Series – Comedy. You can now bring all eight episodes of the first season home with you as Warner Brothers Home Entertainment has released them on DVD, while Warner Archive will have the first season available on Blu-ray. It’s also available via a digital code purchase. I had a chance to look at the DVD set, and as Warner Bros are sticklers for disclaimers, please note that while WBHE provided us with a copy of the DVD to review, the opinions below are my own.

Douglas stars as Sandy Kominsky, an actor whose brief fling with fame morphed into a career as a respected acting coach. His best friend and agent, Norman Newlander, is played by Alan Arkin. The main cast is rounded out by Sarah Baker as Mindy, Sandy’s daughter and business partner and Nancy Travis, a recently divorced woman who decides to take classes with Sandy. Danny DeVito, Susan Sullivan and Ann-Margret are among the familiar faces who pop up in the series.

The episodes are funny and poignant, looking at aging and death, funeral plans and dating, churros and bonsai plants. Douglas and Arkin play well off of each other whether the scene is comedic or dramatic and their performances are so strong that sometimes the rest of the cast is in their shadows.

The eight episodes are presented in a 2:1 aspect ratio and the soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are available in English SDH and French.

If you want to see Douglas and Arkin present a masterclass in both comedy and drama, then you’ll want to add The Kominsky Method Season 1 to your collection.

Nov 11, 2019

Good Boys Blu-ray review

If you’ve ever watched a raunchy Seth Rogen comedy like Superbad or Sausage Party and thought, “What this movie needs is some 12-year-olds saying the same lines”, then Good Boys is the movie for you. Max (Jacob Tremblay), Thor (Brady Noon) and Lucas (Keith L. Williams) are the titular tweens. They find themselves invited to a “kissing party” and, lacking experience, get involved in a series of exploits on their way to greater knowledge. Universal Home Entertainment has now released it for your home collection. I had a chance to review the Blu-ray combo pack, which comes with a DVD and a digital code.

The 1080p AVC encoded video presentation is in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The image has great clarity and detail, whether it’s the pores of the stars or the textiles and environmental surfaces. The colour palette is vivid, while black levels are quite deep. No real compression artifacts or digital noise detract from the imagery.

On the audio side, your ears have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, an English descriptive audio Dolby Digital 2.0 track and Spanish and French Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French. This isn’t an action flick that gives your surround sound system a true workout. Much of the soundscape is prioritized to the front speakers, though there is some ambient surround usage when it really helps. Low frequencies are used sparingly. The dialogue is clean and centred.

On the extras side, the Blu-ray combo pack also comes with a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code. There’s an alternate ending, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, commentary by director/writer Gene Stupnitsky and his co-writer Lee Eisenberg. There’s also a small selection of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Good Boys is an R-rated raunchy comedy that’s definitely not aimed at the whole family, despite its young stars. If you’re a fan of the raunchier end of Seth Rogen’s cinematic oeuvre, then you’ll probably make a home for Good Boys in your collection.

Nov 04, 2019

Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw Blu-ray review

When gardeners have a successful plant, they often take a cutting from it to see if they can get another successful plant. The same can be said about movie franchises. In the case of the nitro-fueled Fast and Furious franchise, they’ve put Hobbs and Shaw into their own potting soil to see if they can work apart from the main team. Will it flower? You can find out at home as Universal Home Entertainment has now released Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw. We were given the opportunity to review the Blu-ray combo pack. A 4k version is also available.

The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is presented in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is a great example of the Blu-ray format. Its images are sharp and crystal clear. Details abound from dripping sweat, hair and skin textures to the natural and man-made environmental surfaces. The colour palette is vibrant, with excellent contrast and deep black levels. There’s nothing in terms of digital noise and compression artifacts to take away from this excellent video presentation.

Your ears are given the choice of English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and Descriptive Video 2.0 tracks as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The non-stop action will give your system quite the workout. The surrounds will put you in the middle of the action, while those with an Atmos system will also get a healthy dose of height sound as well, with the soundtrack giving a great sense of movement through the soundscape. Explosions, vehicles and gun blasts are also given great low end frequency support. Dialogue is clear and centred.

Besides a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code, the combo pack comes with a good selection of extras. There’s an alternate opening, over thirty minutes of extended, alternate, or deleted scenes, audio commentary from director David Leitch, and a series of featurettes exploring characters, cast, and production elements.

Amazing video, excellent audio, abundant extras. The only thing missing when you bring Fast And Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw home will be the popcorn.

Nov 01, 2019

The Lion King Blu-ray review

The 2019 remake of The Lion King was perhaps the most contentious of Disney’s “live-action” remakes. I put live-action in quotes because unlike, say, Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast, the stars of The Lion King remake are photo-realistic computer-generated creations. Besides that one technical point, for many fans the animated version is a Disney classic and for them it’s almost sacrilege to redo it. For others, the technical merits of the work by director Jon Favreau and his team are worth taking a look at this edition. You can decide which side of the fence you’re on as Disney has released it for your home library. I had the opportunity to review the Blu-ray edition. A 4K version is also available.

The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s a pretty breathtaking visual presentation. The clarity is great and the photo-realistic animals exhibit an amazing amount of detail down to their fur and whiskers. That detail also includes the African landscape and its environmental surfaces. The colour palette reflects the earthy tones of the flora and fauna. The black levels are good and there’s only the occasional amount of digital noise and encoding artifacts.

On the audio side, you’re given the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, a 2.0 Descriptive Audio track, and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. Those in search of a Dolby Atmos track will need to get the 4K disc. Like many recent Disney releases, this presentation needs to be increased a bit over reference volume levels to get the full range. The soundscape is great, placing you in the movie’s environment via the surround speakers. As a musical, it’s important to have a dynamic and clear presentation and the songs here sound great. Low end frequencies could use a little more oomph, especially in the stampede scene. Dialogue is clear and centered.

Moving onto the extras, the package comes with a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code. We get an intro from Jon Favreau as well as his commentary on the film. The movie can also be played in a sing-along mode with on-screen lyrics. There are looks at the music, technical wizardry and legacy of the film. Other featurettes include a look at scene construction, the music videos, and a PSA on helping to protect African lions.

With an excellent video presentation, a solid audio package, and a good selection of extras, those wanting a complete Disney library and those who want to marvel at the photo-realistic effects will want to add The Lion King to their library.

Oct 26, 2019

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish Blu-ray review

The direct-to-video release A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish is a light, festive concoction perfect for romance-hungry ‘tweens to watch while noshing on Christmas cookies and wrapping presents. As the good elves at Warner Bros. are sticklers for disclaimers, let me get this bit of housekeeping out of the way before we hitch the reindeer to the sleigh: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided our company with a free copy of the Blu-ray in this review. The opinions I share are my own.

In this Xmas-themed tale, Katherine “Kat” Decker (Laura Marano) dreams of being a successful singer-songwriter. Her reality is a little different. At home, her life is controlled by her conniving stepmother (Johannah Newmarch) and her two stepsisters (Lillian Doucet-Roche and Chanelle Peloso). At work, she plays a singing elf at Santa Land, a seasonal attraction owned by the wealthy Terrence Wintergarden (Barclay Hope). The handsome young Santa that captures Kat’s heart is portrayed by Wintergarden’s son, Nick (Gregg Sulkin). When Kat scores an invite to his family’s Christmas Gala, her stepfamily will stop at nothing to deny her attending. Toss in an attentive dog, a true friend, and some holiday magic, and Kat might just experience the true meaning of the holiday.

The story is light and doesn’t require much attention, making it the perfect background fare for this busy time of year. While Marano and Sulkin have chemistry and do good work as the fairy tale-like romantic leads, the highlight of the cast is Newmarch and her “evil” daughters. Like archetypal villains in these sorts of stories, the trio exists on a diet of scenery and their over-the-top comedic performance wouldn’t be out of place in a British Christmas pantomime.

On the video side, the 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. With a festive colour palette, the image is generally sharp and full of details in textiles and environment. Good black levels and shadows are coupled with an absence of digital artifacts or noise.

On the audio side, your ears get an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. While the surround speakers don’t get much of a workout in this presentation, the musical numbers are bright and dynamic. Dialogue is clear and centred.

In terms of extras, the combo pack comes with a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code for US buyers. There are some trailers for other WB content and two featurettes. The Looks and Costumes of Christmas Wish gives us some design notes from costume designer Valerie Halverson, while The Mic and the Stage takes us behind the scenes of the musical numbers and choreography.

While no one will mistake A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish for A Christmas Carol, its intended audience will enjoy the romance, songs and festive hijinks.

Oct 24, 2019

Veronica Mars (2019): The Complete First Season DVD review

Veronica Mars (2019): The Complete First Season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 22nd, 2019 (you could also get a digital copy in the U.S. on August 19th) and I had a chance to review the new season. The folks at WB are sticklers for disclaimers, so, I’ll begin by saying that Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD to review. The opinions of said DVD are my own.

Fans of the series, a.k.a. Marshmallows, might be a tad confused by the title of this reboot. After all, didn’t the series run for three seasons on UPN and The CW? It did, but this is a new series reboot on Hulu, so we’ll just play along and call this Season One.

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is still working alongside her father, Keith (Enrico Colantoni) the former sheriff turned private investigator. Though spring break is usually a blast in the seaside town of Neptune, this time it’s literal. A motel is bombed and lives are lost. Could this be an escalation of the divide between Neptune’s wealthy who see spring break depressing real estate values and the working class that depend on the annual influx of cash? Mars Investigations are hired by a family member of one of the victims to get to the bottom of things. Along the way, Veronica has to deal with Mexican cartel members, battling townfolks, and a reunion with her Navy boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring).

The bombing mystery spreads over 8 episodes presented on two DVD discs in a 16:9 aspect ratio. Your ears get a 5.1 surround soundtrack with subtitles available in English. In terms of extras there’s a featurette of the show’s appearance at Comic Con 2019.

The centre of the action and attention is Kristen Bell. Veronica has a complex relationship with her hometown and the wealthy citizens who look down on people like her. After a time away, Veronica returns to Neptune and the town’s divisions have grown more divisive. Bell portrays this complex relationship with a mix of seriousness, cynicism, and sassiness. Colantoni’s Keith Mars’ shares some of Veronica’s sarcasm but is also the proud father who has watched his daughter grow from an assistant who often overstepped her position into a full partner in the family business. A solid supporting cast of old faces and new characters supports their work.

Fans of the series have grown up with this character. Like Veronica, they’re maybe a little older, a little wiser, and maybe a bit more cynical about the world. This reboot is a welcome return to Neptune.

Oct 18, 2019

Stuber Blu-ray review

Every ride-sharing experience opens up the possibility of an odd driver or a crazy passenger. So when the Uber driver is played by Kumail Nanjiani and the passenger by Dave Bautista, this immediate mismatch is a recipe for comedy. in Stuber, Bautista plays a cop who’s just had corrective eye surgery. When he has a chance to get the criminal who killed his partner, he needs the help of his hapless driver to complete the mission. Will they make their destination and give each other a five-star rating? You can find out at home as Fox has released Stuber for your home library. Fox sent us a combo Blu-ray/digital code set to review. A 4K version is also available.

The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is released in the original’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation looks sharp with great skin, textile and environmental details. The palette is muted and natural. Black levels are good with only a few moments of bad shadow detail. There are no noticeable compression artifacts or digital noise. Overall, this video presentation can go to the front of the class.

Heading over to your ears, they have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, an English descriptive 5.1 track, and Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. If you just bought a new surround system, this flick will give it quite a workout with surround usage placing you in the centre of the action scenes. The action is also aided by the healthy oomph provided by your subwoofer. Dialogue is clean, clear and well-centered.

As for extras, besides the digital copy code, you get audio commentary from director Michael Dowse and Kumail Nanjiani, bloopers, a promo for film in Georgia, and a trailer.

Pair the unlikely duo of Nanjiani and Bautista with excellent audio and video presentations and Stuber will be a good addition to the library of fans of high-action comedy.

Oct 07, 2019

Toy Story 4 Blu-ray review

When Toy Story 4 was released in theatres, I said that “old and new characters alike are facing some major existential issues” and that the story’s layers worked for audiences of all ages. . You can now reunite with the gang in the comfort of your own home as Disney/Pixar has released it for your home library. We had a chance to review the Blu-ray combo pack, which also comes with a DVD and digital copy code.

The 1080p AVC-encoded disc is presented in the original’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The video presentation is very detailed and the computer-animated characters show the wear and tear of years of childhood play on their surfaces and textiles. Environmental details, from the antique toy store to the rides in the carnival, show just as much textural detail. The colour palette is as wide as the selection of toys and the image also has deep black levels and excellent contrast. There are no evident flaws or digital noise. If Bonnie took this video presentation to class, she’d get a gold star.

On the audio side of things, your ears have the choice of English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and DTS-HD HR 5.1 soundtracks as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio track. There is also the choice of French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. (An English Dolby Atmos soundtrack is available on the 4K release.) Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French and Spanish. Like many recent Disney releases, the volume needs to be upped a bit over reference levels to fully appreciate the tracks. Though your surround speakers are used, you won’t find this presentation as fully immersive as, say, a Marvel or Star Wars movie. Music is fairly dynamic and the music is clear and centred.

The Toy Story 4 combo pack comes with a DVD copy and a Movies Anywhere digital code. Extras are spread over the movie’s Blu-ray disc as well as a bonus item Blu-ray. On the movie disc you’ll find a look at Bo Peep’s transition to a main character, interviews with the cast and crew about their favourite toys, and audio commentary from director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen. The bonus disc takes us behind the scenes of the voice recording process with Ally Maki (Giggle McDimples), examines the relationship of Woody and Buzz, shows us a production breakdown of one of the scenes, introduces us to the new characters, and also gives us deleted scenes, trailers, and promos.

Toy Story 4 gives us a touching tale of purpose and change. Coupled with an excellent video presentation, a good audio package and a bunch of extras, you’ll want to add this one to your collection.

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