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I think the technical term for this is EGADS! Please be patient as we curse and yell at a database mixup that deep sixed dozens of our database entries. We need to clean up or recreate them one by one. Should be fun...

Oct 05, 2022

Rumble Blu-ray review

Paramount and WWE teamed up to produce Rumble, which takes place in a world where monsters and humans live side by side. Monster wrestling is, well, HUGE and each city and town is represented by a monster wrestler. When Stoker’s champion, Tentacular (Terry Crews), wins the world championship, he announces that he no longer wants to represent Stoker. The town’s stadium and revenues are in jeopardy, so a young girl named Winnie (Geraldine Viswanathan), whose late father was a star coach, searches for a monster that can save the town. She finds Steve (Will Arnett), an amateur monster wrestler with a penchant for dancing. Can she train him in time? Can he win the fight? Can they save the town? All the tropes of an underdog working to save the town are here. Other voice talent includes Stephen A. Smith, Jimmy Tatro, Tony Danza, Susan Kelechi Watson, Tony Shalhoub, Bridget Everett, Greta Lee, Ben Schwartz, Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch. Paramount Home Entertainment are releasing Rumble on Blu-ray and I had a chance to look at it.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s an excellent picture with great detail in the CG animated environments, clothing, and animated hair and fur. The colour palette is wide-ranging from darker tones to punching primaries. Black levels are very good and while there aren’t any compression artifacts, there is some occasional banding in the image.

On the audio side of things, you have the choice of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH and French. The surrounds put you in the stadiums with both action and ambient effects. The low end really kicks in with giant monsters crashing around everywhere. The music is bright and lively, and the dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix.

The Blu-ray disc also comes with a digital code and a small collection of extras that look at the characters and might even teach you how to salsa.

Rumble is a family-friendly animated sports movie that goes over very familiar territory. Children will enjoy the colourful monster wrestlers and if you accept it for what it is, you can have some fun too. While the story might be lightweight, the audio and video presentations win the fight.

Oct 04, 2022

The Smurfs (2021) Season 1 Volume 2 DVD review

Paramount and Nickelodeon Home Entertainment are releasing The Smurfs (2021) Season 1 Volume 2 on DVD and I had the opportunity to take an early look and this second part of the 2021 reboot.

The computer animated reboot is a very colourful show that looks great even on DVD. As I’ve said before, market forces dictate that even though this show was aired in HD, the home market for this title is better suited to DVD and its lower price point. The primaries really pop.

The DVD disc contains nine episodes. The included episodes are:

  • The Pluffs!
  • The Majestic 5/Kitchen Klutz
  • Chef Soup/Adventures in Smurfsitting
  • The Round Up/Waffle Wednesday
  • Funny Mommy/Smurfy Day Care
  • Smurfy Secrets
  • Crashing Gargamel’s Party/The Curse of the Smurfs’ Treasure
  • Storm Loses her Mojo/Pop Out
  • Knight Smurfalot/Forget Me What?

On the audio side, the 5.1 soundtrack is mostly front-heavy. Dialogue is clear and centred and music is bright and clear.

Young children who love this new Smurfs reboot will be happy to see that their parents have added The Smurfs (2021) Season 1 Volume 2 DVD to their collection.

Melrose Place: The Complete Series DVD review

For seven seasons, from July 8, 1992 to May 24, 1999, viewers tuned in to watch the steamy, crazy and explosive antics of a group of twentysomethings living in Melrose Place, an apartment complex on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Though some characters left and others joined, for the meat of the series the main characters were the cheating Dr. Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro), Jane Mancini (Josie Bissett), his fashion designer wife, Billy Campbell (Andrew Shue), a writer, Alison Parker (Courtney Thorne-Smith), climbing the ladder in the ad world, Jake Hanson (Grant Show), a carpenter who found time to sleep with most of the female characters over the years, Matt Fielding (Doug Savant), a gay social worker (at a time in society where TV execs felt they had to point that out), and Jo Reynolds (Daphne Zuniga), a photographer escaping an abusive husband. The series started off with two other characters played by Vanessa A. Williams and Amy Locane, but Locane was written off after 13 episodes and Williams exited after season one. Ratings and reviews were middling, but then Melrose Place producer Aaron Spelling hired his secret weapon, Heather Locklear, who had worked with Spelling on T.J. Hooker. Locklear played Amanda Woodward, Alison’s ruthless boss. With Amanda in the show, the stories became crazier, the relationships steamier, and the business skirts shorter. Ratings shot up. Paramount Home Entertainment has now released Melrose Place: The Complete Series on DVD. I had a chance to look at it.

The benefit of the Melrose Place set is that, with 226 episodes spread over 54 discs, it’s hefty enough to be used a piece of home gym equipment. Get those arm curls in! If you’re used to watching shows in widescreen HD, be aware that this series was made and aired before HDTV was in use. The show’s 480p transfer is in a 4:3 aspect ratio and the video transfer, though it improves in later seasons, lacks extremely sharp details and bold colours. There is also crushing in the black levels. Compression artifacts aren’t as bad as they could have been had Paramount stuffed more episodes on less discs. If you realize that broadcast TV didn’t look all that great in the NTSC days, then you’ll realize that DVD physical media still looks better than that. It’s always hard trying to soften expectations from people used to a Blu-ray and 4K world. It’s a good video presentation for the DVD format.

On the audio side of things, Melrose Place comes with an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. English subtitles are not available for all the seasons. Being a 2.0 track, your surrounds and subwoofer have the night off, so make some room on the couch so that they can watch the show with you. Dialogue and music are generally clear.

The 54 disc set does not come with a digital code. There are audio commentaries by show creator Darren Star on a couple of episodes and the first three seasons each have a few short featurettes with the cast and creative team.

Shows like Melrose Place don’t always show up on streaming services, so physical media is a great way to see the show whenever you want. If you spent seven years in the 1990s glued to the antics of these Melrose Place residents then you’ll want to add Melrose Place: The Complete Series DVD to your home entertainment library.

Oct 03, 2022

Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood Blu-ray review

When Dexter ended its eight year run in 2013, its final episode was a cause for much discussion, just like the series finales of Seinfeld and The Sopranos. Not everybody was over the moon thrilled at the idea of revisiting the life of the serial killing forensic technician, but when the limited series Dexter: New Blood premiered in 2021, audiences and critics alike felt it was worth hanging out with series lead Michael C. Hall again. If you love the show, or if you’re looking to explore both shows together, you’ll be glad to hear that Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing a Blu-ray box set of both shows together. I had a chance to look at this Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood Blu-ray set.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio for Dexter and a 2.39:1 ratio for Dexter: New Blood. The Dexter discs are the same as previous Blu-ray releases so issues that were mentioned in the past are still present. The show has great clarity in facial features, environments and textiles. The colour palette is good and the bright primaries of Florida pop in some scenes. There are occasional issues of banding throughout the seasons. It’s quite often a dark presentation but that’s a creative choice, so it’s a feature not a bug. As advocates of physical media will tell you, HD discs will always look better than the HD broadcasts or streams so this is the best that Dexter has looked. As for Dexter: New Blood it’s presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. It’s a step up from the original series, with most of the quibbles about its video missing here. Once again, the creators have made an artistic choice and the colour palette here has a cooler, washed out look that matches the cold landscape of this new setting.

On the audio side of things, here’s the language break down:

  • Dexter: The First Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dexter: The Second Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Spanish Dolby TrueHD 5.1
  • Dexter: The Third Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dexter: The Fourth Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dexter: The Fifth Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dexter: The Sixth Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dexter: The Seventh Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish and English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dexter: The Final Season – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Dexter: New Blood – English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

As for subtitles, seasons 1-5 have English SDH, seasons 6-8 have English and English SDH. Dexter: New Blood has English SDH subtitles. Dialogue is clear, centred and well-prioritized. There’s some nice low frequency usage and the surrounds are used mostly for ambient sound rather than action.

The 106 episodes of the two shows are spread over twenty-eight discs, which are stacked on multiple spindles in a large plastic case. Extras on Dexter include some cast and crew audio commentaries on a few episodes, interview featurettes and two episodes of the Showtime series Ray Donavan. Dexter: New Blood extras include a few featurettes on the reboot of the story. There are no digital codes.

While curious TV viewers may not be the target market, fans of Dexter will be interested in picking up this Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood Blu-ray set.

Oct 02, 2022

The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone 4K SteelBook

In March of this year, Paramount Home Entertainment released The Godfather Trilogy on 4K UHD discs. As we approach the holiday season, the studio has released a lil’ something for those physical media buffs who like to collect SteelBook releases with special artwork. I had a chance to take a look at The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone 4K SteelBook and will let you know about this collectible release.

For a review of the audio and video on this release, please check out our full review of The Godfather Trilogy 4K from March of 2022.

The Godfather 4K, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone SteelBook contains one 4K disc and a digital copy code. Please note that this 4K disc does not contain all the supplemental material found in this year’s trilogy release. The attraction for this release is the artwork. The 4K disc does include an introduction by Francis Ford Coppola. The SteelBook artwork is glossy and features a portrait of Al Pacino as the older Michael Corleone with an orange, yellow and red background. The back of the case is black and features a quote in gold letters: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” The inside panel features a red-tinted collage of characters and scenes from the film.

As mentioned in the previous trilogy review, the disc has excellent audio and video. I stress again, this release is missing that release’s bonus content. If you like collecting SteelBooks and displaying them and you love The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, then you’ll enjoy adding this to your collection.

The Godfather Part II 4K SteelBook review

In March of this year, Paramount Home Entertainment released The Godfather Trilogy on 4K UHD discs. As we approach the holiday season, the studio has released a lil’ something for those physical media buffs who like to collect SteelBook releases with special artwork. I had a chance to take a look at The Godfather Part II 4K SteelBook and will let you know about this collectible release.

For a review of the audio and video on this release, please check out our full review of The Godfather Trilogy 4K from March of 2022.

The Godfather 4K Part II SteelBook contains one 4K disc and a digital copy code. Please note that this 4K disc does not contain all the supplemental material found in this year’s trilogy release. The attraction for this release is the artwork. The 4K disc does include an audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola. The SteelBook artwork is glossy and features a portrait of Robert De Niro as the young Vito Corleone with an orange, yellow and red background. The back of the case is black and features a quote in gold letters: “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.” The inside panel features a blue-tinted collage of characters and scenes from the film.

As mentioned in the previous trilogy review, the disc has excellent audio and video. I stress again, this release is missing that release’s bonus content. If you like collecting SteelBooks and displaying them and you love The Godfather Part II, then you’ll enjoy adding this to your collection.

The Godfather 4K SteelBook review

In March of this year, Paramount Home Entertainment released The Godfather Trilogy on 4K UHD discs. As we approach the holiday season, the studio has released a lil’ something for those physical media buffs who like to collect SteelBook releases with special artwork. I had a chance to take a look at The Godfather 4K SteelBook and will let you know about this collectible release.

For a review of the audio and video on this release, please check out our full review of The Godfather Trilogy 4K from March of 2022.

The Godfather 4K SteelBook contains one 4K disc and a digital copy code. Please note that this 4K disc does not contain all the supplemental material found in this year’s trilogy release. The attraction for this release is the artwork. The 4K disc does include an introduction and an audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola. The SteelBook artwork is glossy and features a portrait of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in which the tuxedo clad Don is holding a cat in front of an orange/yellow background. The back of the case is black and features a golden quote: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The interior of the case features a sepia collage of characters and scenes from the film.

As mentioned in the previous trilogy review, the disc has excellent audio and video. I stress again, this release is missing that release’s bonus content. If you like collecting SteelBooks and displaying them and you love The Godfather, then you’ll enjoy adding this to your collection.

Sep 23, 2022

Paramount Presents The War of the Worlds 4K and When Worlds Collide Blu-ray review

As part of it’s Paramount Presents line, the studio has released a double feature containing two classic science fiction films from the 1950s: 1953’s The War of the Worlds is presented in 4K, while 1951’s When Worlds Collide is presented as a Blu-ray.

Directed by Byron Haskin, The War of the Worlds is loosely based on H.G. Wells 1898 novel but with its setting updated to contemporary California with Cold War themes. When Martians invade the Earth, a nuclear scientist (Gene Barry) and a USC instructor (Ann Robinson) are two of the Earthlings attempting to stop them. The film was well received by critics, won an Oscar for Special Effects, and in 2011 was added to the US Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, which preserves films deemed to be culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Directed by Rudolph Maté, When Worlds Collide is based on the 1933 sci-fi novel by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie. Scientists discover that a rogue star named Bellus, accompanied by a planet named Zyra, is on a collision course with the Earth in less than eight months. A plan is hatched to build space arks to transport a lucky few to safety on the passing Zyra but, with impending doom approaching, there are concerns that wealth and corruption will invade the lottery process used to choose the passengers. The cast includes Richard Derr, Barbara Rush, Peter Hansen and John Hoyt. The special effects were impressive at the time and earned the film an Oscar.

Let’s look at the video presentations …

The War of the Worlds 2160p HEVC / H.265 encoded native 4K digital transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 is presented in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. It was mastered from a previously done 4K scan of the original elements and looks great. Sharp detail on the faces and clothing and a nice grain structure are complemented by the HDR colour grading of the palette with rich green Martian ships and brilliant ray gun shots. The image has vivid whites and deep blacks. This is a fantastic transfer.

As mentioned, When Worlds Collide is included in this presentation as a Blu-ray. The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is presented in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Like it’s 4K companion in the package, this Blu-ray has sharp details on the usual suspects (faces, clothing and sets) and a pleasing grain structure. Though it’d be nice to have a 4K’s HDR, this Blu-ray has a very good colour palette with bright reds, dark greens and pleasing skin tones. Black levels are good and there’s only a small amount of print flaws evident from the source material.

The War of the Worlds gives you an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as German and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Dutch. The audio engineers have done an excellent job opening the original mono track into the 5.1 soundscape and moving certain effects into the surround channels. The music is dynamic and the dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized.

When Worlds Collide offers us an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono soundtrack as well as German, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono tracks. Subtitles are available for English, English SDH, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. Though your surrounds and subwoofer will have the night off, the track does a pretty good job with the audio source material and though the effects are not in the surrounds, they are clear and carry some weight. The music isn’t as clear here but still sounds okay. Dialogue is clear and prioritized in the mix.

Time to take a look at the extras …

First off, if you’re in the US, you’ll get the special Paramount Presents packaging with the fold-out artwork. Those elsewhere will get a standard slipcover.

The War of the Worlds disc comes with a nice variety of extras including commentary from actors Ann Robinson and Gene Barry, as well as film director Joe Dante, historian Bob Burns, and author Bill Warren. There’s a roughly 30 minute look at the production, a discussion on the life and times of H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds radio broadcast from the Mercury Theatre, and an original theatrical trailer.

The When Worlds Collide disc has only one extra, the film’s theatrical trailer.

The War of the Worlds 4K and When Worlds Collide Blu-ray set is a must have for fans of early science fiction films. The War of the Worlds is the gem of this set with an excellent 4K video presentation and updated soundtrack as well as a nice bunch of extras. Still When Worlds Collide has a very solid Blu-ray presentation with good video and sound. I think you’ll enjoy this one.

Sep 20, 2022

The White Lotus: The Complete First Season DVD review

The White Lotus is a hit with critics and audiences alike. Created by Mike White, the comedy-drama tracks the lives of the guests and staff at a Hawaiian resort called The White Lotus. Their lives seem perfect and the resort idyllic, but over the course of a week their dysfunctions come to a head and their façades begins to crumble. Nominated for twenty Emmy Awards, The White Lotus won ten, including Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series, Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Directing for White, Outstanding Supporting Actress for the always wonderful Jennifer Coolidge and Outstanding Supporting Actor for Murray Bartlett. A prestige project like this would be a natural for a Blu-ray release, but Warner Brothers doesn’t do that too often for TV series, unless you happen to be related to a DC Comics franchise. So here we are reviewing The White Lotus: The Complete First Season on DVD. Standard WB disclaimer: Though Warner Brothers provide me with a copy for review, the views and opinions below are mine.

The six episodes of Season One are spread over two DVD discs. Hawaii begs for a Blu-ray release where colours would pop and details would be sharper, but at least using two discs keeps us away from major compression artifact issues. So there is a nice amount of detail in textiles and other elements up to the limitations of the DVD format. Darker scenes lose some detail which, again, would be handled better in a Blu-ray release. Fingers crossed that we see it in that format one day. Still, it’s a very nice DVD video presentation.

On the audio side, there is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. English SDH are available. The witty dialogue is front and centre (literally) and is clear and never lost in the mix. The ambient sounds and other effects use the surrounds well, placing you in the scene so much that you might order a piña colada. The score is bright and dynamic.

As for special features, I would have loved a commentary track from Mike White, but instead we only get two three minute bits, one a quick look at the production by cast and crew and the other a word association game by the cast.

The White Lotus: The Complete First Season DVD teams a solid DVD video presentation with an excellent audio track. Though I would have loved to have seen it released on Blu-ray, if you love the show and don’t want to be tied to the whims of streaming libraries, getting it on any physical media is a plus.

Sep 15, 2022

Mayor of Kingstown: Season One Blu-ray review

Mayor of Kingstown is the latest Paramount+ project from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan and Headstone lead singer and actor Hugh Dillon and, no, the two shows aren’t related. Jeremy Renner plays Mike McLusky, a power broker in a town where incarceration is the biggest industry. Mike’s family has been running the show in the town for years and the series tackles the corruption, inequality and racism that plague the system. The series also stars Dianne Wiest, Hugh Dillon, Tobi Bamtefa, Taylor Handley, Emma Laird, Derek Webster, Hamish Allan-Headley, Pha’rez Lass, Aidan Gillen, Kyle Chandler and Nishi Munshi. Paramount has just released Mayor of Kingstown: Season One on Blu-ray.

The 1080p AVC encoded digital transfer is presented in a 2:1 aspect ratio. The show’s story is gritty and dirty and the show has adopted a gritty visual style to reflect it. In lighter scenes, many of the colours in the palette pop. The detail in the image is evident in the facial textures, clothing and locations. Darker scenes still manage to hold their detail as well. There are no encoding issues to report.

On the audio side of things, the show offers an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. Subtitles are available for English SDH. Though the soundtrack is often front-heavy, ambient sounds and action effects occasionally populate your surround speakers. The music is clear and dynamic and dialogue is clear, centred and well prioritized in the mix.

The ten episodes of season one are spread over three blu-ray discs. There is no digital code for the season. Extras include insights into each episodes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a look at the characters, and a collection of the cast’s favourite scenes.

We’ve seen dramatic stories of prison corruption before. Mayor of Kingstown gets its strength from the great cast that has been assembled. If this type of story is your thing, then you’ll want to pick up the Mayor of Kingstown: Season One Blu-ray.

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