Evans Above

Apr 01, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a standalone story film that fills in some of the gaps between Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The events that unfold and the characters we meet take us right up to the opening moments of the film that enthralled audiences starting in 1977. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is now available for your home library as a Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD combo pack.

Shot digitally, the 1080p transfer is gorgeous and in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Textures sing in this release, from the grit and the grime, the rain and the dirt, to the cold interiors of the Death Star. While Rebel costumes are gritty and frayed, the shine of spit and polish on the Stormtroopers’ uniforms only underline the order and lack of individuality in the Imperial forces. The depths of space are obviously a great test of black levels and the depth and detailing are flawless. And in a story so full of CGI, the digitally-created environments and characters blend excellently into the real actors and sets. All in all, this is an excellent video presentation.

On the audio side of things, viewers 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, French and Spanish. The soundtrack is gorgeous and makes perfect use of the channels. Dialogue is clear. The score, from composer Michael Giacchino and with John Williams’ famous refrains, is rich and powerful but never overpowering. The surround and low-frequency tracks put you in the middle of the action, whether it’s the pounding footsteps of the Imperial walkers or a rebel X-Wing fighter roaring from one side of the screen to the other. A perfect soundtrack to complement a perfect video presentation.

The package for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is also overflowing with extras. We get detailed looks at many of the new characters introduced in this film as well as the actors behind them. There are also looks at the production design as well as a look at the various cameos and character secrets.

All in all, the home entertainment release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a must-have. You won’t be disappointed adding it to your collection.

Mar 06, 2017

Moana Blu-ray review

Disney has always had a knack for releasing instantly classic animated fare that people want to watch and rewatch, sing-along to and dress up as the following Halloween. The streak has not been broken by Moana, which is now available as a Blu-ray release.

The AVC-encoded 1080p Blu-ray disc is presented in the theatrical release’s 2.39:1 aspect ratio and the package also comes with a DVD version and a code for a digital download. I don’t know if the palette had a choreographer, because the colours dance on this disc. The greens of the island foliage, the dazzling blues of the ocean, the warm hues of the earth are all a joy to look at. The sharp image and the details on hair, surfaces and fabrics are excellent. The black levels are great and I didn’t see any artifacts to speak of. Yet another excellent video transfer from the team at Disney.

On the audio side of the presentation, you get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks with subtitles in English, English SDH, French, and Spanish. The surround tracks are put to great use, immersing us in the crashing waves, island environment and musical numbers. Those musical numbers are powerful but not overpowering and the dialogue and lyrics are clear and centered in the soundscape.

On the extra, we get two theatrical shorts, Inner Workings and Gone Fishing, deleted scenes, commentary from directors John Musker and Ron Clements, a half-hour look at Pacific Islands life and culture, an in-depth look at the making of the musical numbers, and an Alessia Cara music video.

Moana is fun for the whole family, with a great video and audio presentation to boot. A worthy addition to your home entertainment library.

Feb 27, 2017

Doctor Strange Blu-ray review

I loved Marvel’s Doctor Strange when I saw it in the theatre and now all of the visual delights are available for the home as Disney releases it on Blu-ray on February 28th.

I had a chance to look at the 2D home release of this film (a 3D version is also available for those with the right equipment) and the visual quality of this release does not disappoint. The 1080p transfer is in the cinematic version’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Digitally captured, the movie transfers well with only some mild crush in the black areas. The image is very detailed, with great facial and surface textures. The film’s palette matches many of its moody, darker scenes, though of course the metaphysical dimension moments exhibit great colours but nothing that pops as unrealistic, which is a strange thing to say when you’re talking about metaphysical dimension scenes.

On the audio side, viewers 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. Though the whole surround environment immerses you in Doctor Strange’s world, the low end gets a great workout here, with its deep tones adding to the mind-bending visuals. Dialogue is centred and crystal clear.

The disc also comes with a nice assortment of extras, including featurettes on the cast, locations and filming, a look at the supporting characters both in the film and comics, a costume segment cleverly titled “The Fabric of Reality”, as well as looks at the score and fight choreography. There’s also an update on the Marvel Universe, a Thor scene, as well as the usual deleted scenes, gag reels and a commentary from director Scott Derrickson.

A top-notch film experience coupled with a top-notch presentation means that the Doctor Strange Blu-ray deserves a spot in your home library.

Feb 16, 2017

Taking a sneak peek at the 2017 Canadian International AutoShow

The 2017 Canadian International AutoShow pulls into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and runs from February 17th to the 26th. I had the pleasure of attending the Media Preview Day and I can tell you that there’s a lot of things to dazzle and awe you as well as a lot of information to help you with your automotive shopping. More details on the show can be found by visiting autoshow.ca.

Before I get to the vehicles, the 2017 CIAS is massive so parents can park their children at the Volkswagen Children’s Playcare Centre, a FREE professional daycare service filled with exciting activities for your children brought to you by your local Volkswagen dealer. Kids can take part in arts and crafts, interactive activities and much more. It’s on Level 600 in the South Building beside the restaurant and coat check.

Wait did I say restaurant? New this year is the Earth Café & Lounge where you can refuel with a wide range of healthy organic and fair trade snack, drink and lunch options, ranging from kale shakes to organic fair trade coffees to quinoa and kale salads.

Okay, but let’s get down to business:

  • The always popular Auto Exotica, presented by Castrol and the Globe and Mail, will allow car enthusiasts to check out luxury vehicles from Aston Martin, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Karma, McLaren, Singer, Pagani, Lotus and a six-car vintage Ferrari display presented by Ferrari of Ontario. A new addition is a display of classic exotics from some of Canada’s most discerning collectors, presented by Autostrada Forum Magazine, which will be profiling several rare and visually stunning examples of exotic motoring in years gone by.
  • The Ontario Provincial Police have a large presence at CIAS 2017. Show visitors will be able get behind the wheel of several new service vehicles, including a Dodge Charger, a four-wheel drive off-road UTV and a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Throughout the week, the AutoShow Live Stage will host numerous OPP presentations and performances, including the OPP Golden Helmets, K9 and emergency response teams, and under water search and rescue demonstrations.
  • AutoShow Trivia Challenge will let you test your knowledge and your speed. Just visit game.autoshow.ca, enter your email address and slide to start. One daily prize will be awarded beginning Feb 15, 2017 and ending February 26, 2017 at 4 PM EST. One lucky winner will be awarded a Grand Prize of a $1,000 gift card from VIA Rail Canada. For full contest rules and regulations please contact the Canadian International AutoShow.
  • It’s Canada 150 so celebrate Canada’s first car, the 1867 Seth Taylor Steam Buggy, which was designed and built by Henry Seth Taylor, a prosperous watchmaker, jeweler and businessman in Stanstead, Que. The one-of-a-kind exhibit is being hosted by Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
  • The 50 Years of Grand Prix Racing in Canada exhibit will feature the 1997 Williams FW19 that former F1 superstar Jacques Villeneuve drove in the 1997 European Grand Prix in Jerez, Spain, when he became the first, and so far only, Canadian to win the Formula 1 World Championship. It is the first time the car has been in North America since that 1997 season.
  • Electric Avenue will allow visitors a chance to check out the greenest vehicles around.
  • Over 41 vehicles will be unvieled at the AutoShow, including Aston Martin’s AM-RB 001, Audi’s R8 Spyder, RS3, TT RS, and SQ5, BMW’s 5 Series, M760Li xDrive, and MINI Cooper S E Countryman All4, Cadillac’s Escala Concept, Chevrolet’s Traverse and Equinox Diesel, Ford’s Mustang and F-150, Genesis’ New York Concept, GMC’s Terrain, Honda’s 2018 Odyssey, Hyundai Canada’s Elantra GT 5-Door, INFINITI’s QX50 Concept, Jaguar’s F-TYPE 400 Sport, Kia’s Stinger and Cadenza, Lincoln’s Navigator Concept, Maserati’s Quattroporte GranSport, Mazda’s CX-5, Mercedes-Benz’s Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+, Mercedes-AMG GT R and Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster, Nissan’s Vmotion 2.0 Concept, Porsche’s 991 GT3 Cup Car and Macan Turbo, Rinspeed’s Oasis concept vehicle, Subaru’s Viziv-7 Concept, Volkswagen’s Tiguan – Long Wheel Base, and Volvo’s V90 R Design.
  • Family Day is on February 20th, and the AutoShow celebrates it with Family Fun Day which will include special entertainment, prize giveaways, and more.
  • Castrol Alley with Legendary Motorcar Company will celebrate the muscle cars of the Golden Age of North American auto manufacturing. Ontario’s own Legendary Motorcar Company will celebrate the beasts from the ’60s and ’70s in Castrol Alley on level 700 in the South Building.

Whether your ready to drop some cash on a new car, drop some drool on a luxury car, or drop a jaw for a concept car, the 2017 Canadian International AutoShow will have something for everyone. It was a great Media Preview day. Check out autoshow.ca for more details.

Here’s a look at some of the things that caught our eye today:

2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos 2017 CIAS Media Day photos

Jan 12, 2017

Homeland Season 5 Blu-ray review

I recently had a chance to take a look at season five of Showtime’s Homeland, which is now available on Blu-ray. Its events take place about two years after those in season four. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), the former CIA intelligence officer, is living in Berlin and working as part of the security team surrounding Otto Düring (Sebastian Koch), a wealthy German philanthropist. Carrie finds herself interacting with her old co-workers as the twelve episodes deal with themes like Edward Snowden, ISIS, and the migrant crisis.

This 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment release has an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Colours are very good, especially in the European locales, though some of the darker scenes that are stock for spy stories have some loss of definition. Fine detail on fabrics, skin, etc. are quite good.

On the the audio side of things, viewers get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as Japanese, Spanish and Italian DTS 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH as well as French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. The surround tracks are put to good use, immersing you into the crowds and camps Carrie finds herself in. Low frequency effects are also put to good use in some of the more explosive action scenes. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand.

Extras are a little on the thin side, which is par for the course for most TV releases until you finally get the complete series box set. Season 5 gives you The Evolution of Carrie Mathison, a short look at our heroine’s background, and a look at the season’s main locale in Homeland in Berlin: Beyond the Wall.

Fans of Homeland will want to add this technically well done Season 5 release to their collection.

Nov 28, 2016

Pete’s Dragon Blu-ray review

As Disney reaches back to make live action versions of some of its animated classics like Cinderella and The Jungle Book, it now tackles Pete’s Dragon. The 1977 version combined animation and live action, but this new release, available on Blu-ray on November 29th, 2016, uses CGI to perfectly blend the dragon into Pete’s world.

The 1080p release is in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. In a film with quite a few scenes taking place in the dark reaches of the forest, you better get the black levels right and this transfer does, with details in fur and skin holding up under the conditions. The greens of the forest palette thrive when we’re in more sunlit situations and the details on everything from skin to clothes and surfaces is excellent. Though there might be a few moments of some digital noise, it’s nothing to write home about, so put away the stamps.

The disc has 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. The tracks quite subtly surround you with the film’s soundscape and the lower frequency channel is well-used in action scenes. The dialogue is centred and clear, though at times seems a bit quiet in relation to the rest of the audio.

The disc comes with a variety of extras, including a DVD and a voucher for a digital copy. You’ll also get the director’s commentary, a look at creating the dragon, deleted and alternate scenes, bloopers and a couple of music videos.

A joy to watch for the whole family, Pete’s Dragon is waiting to be a part of your home theatre library.

The BFG Blu-ray review

When I reviewed the theatrical release of The BFG, I said that it was “suited for kids of all ages, even the ones that pretend to be grown-ups.” Now you can share the experience at home as Disney releases it on Blu-ray on November 29th, 2016.

The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is in the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Digitally shot, the movie looks simply magical and the CGI giants and other effects come out looking great. Nothing in the transfer seems to distract from the presentation. Black levels are very good, and the detail on clothing, faces and environment are excellent. The colour palette is vibrant but not overpowering and despite going to a land of giants, the video just oozes realism.

Your ears will be treated to 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. The surround tracks put you right in the middle of the adventure with Sophie and BFG, while the lower frequency environment is put to good use in a world where over-sized feet go stomping through the action. Dialogue is clear and centred so you’ll have no problem hearing each of BFG’s mispronounced words and phrases.

The BFG has some nice extras. Actress Ruby Barnhill, who plays Sophie, hosts a 27 minute featurette that shares her experiences on set as well as looking at the film’s production and talking with director Steven Spielberg. There’s also a brief animated version of the story, a look at his unique words, a look at casting the giants, and a tribute to the film’s late screenwriter, Melissa Mathison.

I truly enjoyed The BFG and think that it will make a great addition to your home movie library.

Oct 18, 2016

Alice Through the Looking Glass now available on Blu-ray

When I reviewed the theatrical release of Alice Through the Looking Glass, I said it was a mess. So as Disney releases the Blu-ray version, I’m in the odd place of saying that it’s a storytelling mess that’s a beauty on its technical merits.

The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is released in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Simply put, it’s just stunning to look at. Fabrics, structures and natural elements all have striking detail and wear and tear that bring them to life. Colours are loud and pop off the screen when they need to and are naturally balanced in other scenes. Black levels are deep and there’s so little digital noise in just a few low light scenes that it is hardly worth mentioning.

The audio side 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 in English SDH, French and Spanish. The audio presentation is equal to this disc’s video side. The surround tracks take us deep into Alice’s adventure, from the booming cannons in sea battle to all of the elements in the Hatter’s world. The low end gives the soundtrack a strong floor whether it is in the ambient affects or the music. Dialogue is clear throughout.

As for extras, viewers will get audio commentary from director James Bobin and the usual collection of deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

So, here’s the conclusion: If you loved Alice Through the Looking Glass in the cinema then this Blu-ray disc will knock your socks off. If you didn’t love the film, but really like a technical presentation that will knock your socks off, then you’ll want this in your home library. If the film was so-so to you and you can’t tell a Blu-ray from a stingray, then give this one a pass.

Sep 27, 2016

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Blu-ray review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, starring Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, places this talented cast in a raunchy comedy about two ne’er-do-well brothers who get more than they bargain for when they place an ad to find two “nice” girls to take to their sister’s wedding. The flick is now available in a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD combo pack from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer is presented with a 2.391 aspect ratio. The film’s Hawaiian scenes are a nice test for the video quality and the sun-drenched waters, lush foliage and sunny skies pop with accurate colours. Details in fabric and foliage are very good, as are the contrast and black levels. Some noise can be seen in a few darker scenes, but it’s nothing that’s going to make you take the umbrella out of your tropical cocktail and throw it at the screen.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack as well as Spanish, French and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and a Russian DTS 5.1 track. As for subtitles, there’s English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish, and Ukrainian titles available. On a side note, I always wonder how the studios choose which languages to subtitle for. Looking at the list here, I have to ask if this film did well in the Scandinavian and Baltic states. As far as the soundscape goes, the surround tracks do their job of putting you in the middle of the party scenes. Dialogue is also clean and properly levelled.

A comedy usually has a lot of stuff that didn’t make it in the movie, so the extras provide us with deleted scenes and gags, commentary by director Jake Szymanski, as well as some Funny or Die shorts and theatrical trailers.

If you’re looking for a raunchy, mindless comedy with a great technical presentation then you might want to add Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates to your collection.

Sep 20, 2016

Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary Blu-ray review

Disney’s 1991 animated musical Beauty and the Beast was a cultural phenomenon, earning over $400 million dollars worldwide and becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. On its 25th anniversary, Disney is now releasing it again on Blu-ray as part of The Signature Collection. The set includes three versions of the film: the original theatrical release, an extended edition with an extra six minutes or so, and a sing-along version for viewers to join in on the Oscar-winning songs. Sadly, the 2011 3D version is not included in the set.

The disc’s AVC encoded 1080p transfer is in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, differing slightly from the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical release. The video presentation is definitely a beauty. The whole rich colour palette is beautifully represented whether we’re in a forest scene or a dazzling ballroom. The details of the animation are all there, and the lush, traditionally painted backgrounds of the animation look gorgeous. The transfer faithfully captures the artistry of Disney’s animators while not introducing digital artifacts that would distract from the presentation.

On the audio side, we get an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack and well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish. The soundscape is not a beast either. We’re pulled into this animated world and surrounded with its ambience. Dialogue is clear from the softest whisper and loudest shout to the best sung chorus. Low frequency effects are used well. The songs and music of Beauty and the Beast are well-served by this soundtrack.

The disc comes with a variety of supplements though some of them are only available digitally online and not on the discs themselves though they had been included on previous releases. You get the usual grab bag of behind-the-scenes looks, discussions with cast and artists and looks at the musical process. One of the new supplements, “Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration” features Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Lin- Manuel Miranda, Stephen Schwartz, and Alan Menken discussing and performing songs from the film.

On the Beauty side, the audio and video presentation are impeccable. On the Beast side, I would like to have seen all of the previous extras on a supplementary disc as opposed to being made available for digital download and in the sake of previous version completeness I would like to have had the 3D version included. Still, my review has far more Beauty than Beast, and if you don’t have the previous Blu-ray versions, than The Signature Collection 25th Anniversary release of Beauty and the Beast belongs in your home entertainment library.

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