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    Child 44 Blu-ray Review

    Jul 29 2015 01:14 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    One of the most frighteningly realistic depictions of post-war Stalinist Russia ever portrayed on film, Daniel Espinosa’s Child 44 combines a serial killer storyline with a political thriller scenario where the hunter also becomes the hunted. It’s a convoluted business, and the screenplay and direction sometimes get mired in their own complexity, but it remains a gripping film with some excellent performances amid the harrowing atmosphere amazingly set up by the production design team working under a most talented director.



    Studio: Lionsgate
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD
    Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
    Rating: R
    Run Time: 2 Hr. 17 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 08/04/2015
    MSRP: $24.99
    The Production Rating: 3.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4/5
    3D Rating: NA
    Video:

    Shot on film, the movie’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is usually very good, but there are occasional soft scenes which seem a bit arbitrary. Color has been desaturated a bit to suggest an earlier, more oppressive era, and it certainly works to sustain the repressive mood of the piece. Flesh tones likewise appear pale but not unpleasant. Black levels are often a bit milky but can on occasion look rich and reasonably deep. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5
    Audio:

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix begins with a bang with superb split atmospheric effects during the wartime scenes and later using the surround channels a bit more sparsely but no less effectively as the story progresses. Jon Ekstrand’s music gets a nice spread through the front and rear soundstages. Dialogue has been nicely recorded and has been placed in the center channel.

    Special Features Rating: 2/5
    Special Features:

    Reflections of History (8:18, HD): a brief featurette featuring members of the production team including costume designer Jenny Beavan, original novelist Tom Rob Smith, and the film’s props coordinator and graphic designer along with stars Joel Kinnaman and Gary Oldman praising the realism of the sets, costumes, and locations. They also speak gallant words of praise for director Daniel Espinosa though he himself is shown working but is not interviewed.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (2:16, HD)

     

    Promo Trailers (HD): American Heist, A Most Wanted Man, Locke, Warrior.

     

    Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

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    Overall Rating: 3.5/5
    Overall:

    While there are some occasional lapses in the narrative lines of the film, the atmosphere is so gripping and the direction so right that Child 44 emerges as an interesting and entertaining thriller. The Blu-ray offers a fine accounting of the film’s theatrical look and sound.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    1 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Lionsgate

    Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIII DVD Review

    Jul 28 2015 03:49 PM | Todd Erwin in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIII benefits from a better selection of episodes than the last few sets, including fan favorites Daddy-O and Agent For H.A.R.M., plus Earth vs. the Spider and Teen-Age Crime Wave, and throwing in some fun bonus features centered around the films featured in each episode.



    Studio: Shout! Factory
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DD
    Subtitles: None
    Rating: Not Rated
    Run Time: 3 Hr. 12 Min. (approx)
    Package Includes: DVD
    Case Type: THINPak keepcases inside outer paperboard sleeve
    Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
    Region: 1
    Release Date: 07/28/2015
    MSRP: $59.97
    The Production Rating: 3.5/5
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    Video Rating: 3.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    As I’ve stated in my previous reviews of these sets, judging the video quality of an episode of MST3K is difficult. The movies are usually in fairly bad shape, with sub-par transfers that the series’ producers had to contend with.

     

    The only fair thing to do is to judge the host segments, and the quality improves as you get later into the series. Discs one and two have some minor softness to it, but colors are consistent. The remaining discs are excellent, with increased detail and well-defined colors. Throughout all four discs, however, there are some brief minor anomalies inherent in the broadcast masters, such as dropouts, but these are few and far between.

    Audio Rating: 3/5
    Audio:

    As I’ve stated in my previous reviews of these sets, judging the video quality of an episode of MST3K is difficult. The movies are usually in fairly bad shape, with sub-par transfers that the series’ producers had to contend with.

     

    The only fair thing to do is to judge the host segments, and the quality improves as you get later into the series. Discs one and two have some minor softness to them, but colors are consistent. The remaining discs are excellent, with increased detail and well-defined colors. Throughout all four discs, however, there are some brief minor anomalies inherent in the broadcast masters, such as dropouts, but these are few and far between.

    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
    Special Features:

    As with Shout! Factory’s other MST3K boxed sets, the menu designs on each disc are themed with the episode, with new puppet animation, and are very funny. Also included in the set are a set of original comic book style mini-posters for each episode, identical to the DVD covers, created by Steve Vance. All four discs come housed in THIN-Pak keepcases inside a paperboard sleeve.

     

    Disc One (Daddy-O):
    Beatnick Blues: Investigating Daddy-O (9:01): A look at the teen exploitation films of the 1950s and Daddy-O, in particular. Produced by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.

     

    MST Hour Wraps (5:32): Mystery Science Theater Hour was a short-lived hour-long version of the series for syndication (splitting each original episode in half), with Mike Nelson, in his Jack Perkins character, bracketing each episode.

     

    Disc Two (Earth vs. the Spider):
    This Movie Has Legs: Looking Back at Earth vs. the Spider (10:52): Another great documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures on the making of the movie.

     

    MST Hour Wraps (5:17): Mystery Science Theater Hour was a short-lived hour-long version of the series for syndication (splitting each original episode in half), with Mike Nelson, in his Jack Perkins character, bracketing each episode.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (1:47)

     

    Disc Three (Teen-Age Crime Wave):
    Film It Again, Sam: The Katzman Chonicles (22:24): A look at the career of film producer Sam Katzman, in yet another terrific documentary from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.

     

    Tommy Cook: From Jungle Boy to Teenage Jungle (14:10): The star of Teen-Age Crime Wave, Tommy Cook, discusses his career from child actor to leading man.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (1:38)

     

    Disc Four (Agent For .H.A.R.M.):
    Peter Mark Richman: In H.A.R.M.’s Way (8:11): The actor who plays Adam Chance talks about his career, his experiences on the set of H.A.R.M., and his disappointment with Universal’s misspelling of his name in all of the promotional materials for the film.

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    Overall Rating: 3.5/5
    Overall:

    The last few volumes of MST3K have been somewhat disappointing, with no real standout episodes and weak bonus features. Volume XXXIII puts that to rest, with three out of the four episodes being winners and overall some really interesting documentaries on the films themselves.

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    Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    1 comments    -----    DVD, Shout Factory, TV Reviews

    The Apple Dumpling Gang Blu-ray Review

    Jul 28 2015 01:01 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Three orphans, a slick gambler, a tomboyish female stagecoach driver, and two bumbling outlaws: just the makings for a Disney period western comedy with just the proper portions of laughs, sentiment, adventure, and romance. It’s Norman Tokar’s The Apple Dumpling Gang, probably more famous now as the first big screen pairing of comic actors Don Knotts and Tim Conway, and the personas they take on here pretty much defined their pairings in all of their movies in tandem. As for the rest, it’s a pleasant family comedy with possibly less adventure than the usual Disney mixture and once again featuring a raft of high class character acting talent to bolster the stars of the film.



    Studio: Disney
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DD
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: G
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    Region: ABC
    Release Date: 12/01/2014
    MSRP: $24.95
    The Production Rating: 3/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness and color are both quite outstanding during the presentation with realistic and appealing flesh tones. Contrast has been dialed in consistently, but black levels inside the mine and elsewhere are only of average depth. The image is spotlessly clean, however, with no signs of age-related artifacts The film has been divided into 12 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    There is no lossless sound encode with this Blu-ray disc. Instead, Disney has provided a midrange bitrate Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix which Dolby Prologic decodes into the center channel. Likely the mono mix heard during original engagements, dialogue is clear and clean and in no way compromised when mixed with the background score of Buddy Baker or the atmospheric effects. In fact, the bass levels during the mine cave-in sequence are quite impressive. No age-related hiss or crackle can be heard during the presentation.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonus materials included with this specialty Blu-ray release.

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    Overall Rating: 3/5
    Overall:

    The Apple Dumpling Gang was a big enough hit to warrant a sequel several years later, and the simple, appealing mix of comedy and adventure is pleasant if non-taxing for families of any make-up. The movie is offered as part of the Disney Movie Club (www.DisneyMovieClub.com) though you can certainly find it offered for sale with varying prices at Amazon (see below) and through other marketplace sellers.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    2 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Disney

    Herbie Rides Again Blu-ray Review

    Jul 27 2015 01:04 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Like any other motion picture company, Disney has never been hesitant about mounting sequels to its most successful pictures. Robert Stevenson's Herbie Rides Again came five years after the astounding success of its parent movie The Love Bug, and it’s even more innocuous and insignificant than its predecessor. Regardless, it managed to be one of the top five grossing movies of its year and pleased countless numbers of people. Loaded with slapstick, cardboard heroes and villains, and a car that grows more magical with each successive movie, Herbie Rides Again at least gave half of Hollywood’s notable character actors a paycheck.



    Studio: Disney
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: G
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    Region: ABC
    Release Date: 12/01/2014
    MSRP: $24.95
    The Production Rating: 2.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is mostly outstanding throughout the presentation apart from some soft, grainy flashback clips from The Love Bug and an occasional long shot. Color is nicely balanced and suitably saturated with realistic and appealing skin tones. Contrast has been consistently maintained, and black levels are more than adequate. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5
    Audio:

    There is a lossless encode present with the disc: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The mix, however, offers almost nothing in the rear channels and is heavily directed toward the front soundstage. Dialogue is always clear and is never compromised by the piping George Bruns background score or the atmospheric effects used throughout. The volume level of the encode seems a trifle underpowered, however, and might require some adjustment for more comfortable listening levels. There are no age-related problems with hiss or other anomalies.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonus features included with this specialty Blu-ray disc.

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    Overall Rating: 2.5/5
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    Audiences obviously loved the concept of a magical Beetle, enough to make Herbie Rides Again a significant box-office hit and generate more sequels even though the freshness of the concept even in only the second film was starting to wear thin. The movie is offered as part of the Disney Movie Club (www.DisneyMovieClub.com) though you can certainly find it offered for sale with varying prices at Amazon (see below) and through other marketplace sellers.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    4 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Disney

    Justice League: Gods and Monsters Blu-ray/DVD Review

    Jul 26 2015 02:49 PM | Timothy E in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    A Justice League that uses lethal force: an alternate universe with a Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman that are much different from the heroes with which we are familiar forms the basis of Justice League: Gods and Monsters, the newest DC Universe original movie written by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, both veteran creators of the Emmy Award winning Batman: The Animated Series(1992-1995). Justice League: Gods and Monsters is being released in conjunction with a series of animated shorts featuring the same characters available online on Machinima as Justice League: Gods and Monsters Chronicles.



    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    Rating: PG-13
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 16 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy
    Case Type: Amaray
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: ABC
    Release Date: 07/28/2015
    MSRP: $24.98
    The Production Rating: 4/5
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    Video Rating: 4/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    Justice League: Gods and Monsters is presented in the AVC codec in a 1.85:1 screen aspect ratio. There are no compression artifacts to speak of, but the fine line artwork of the animated figures shows aliasing when characters are in motion, as this animation style does on other DC animated releases. The presentation influenced by animator Timm's designs makes fine use of primary colors which are conveyed divinely on this release. Although the video presentation is very good on the main feature, and most of the special features, the episode included of Superman: The Animated Series from the DC Vault appears to have been transferred low res from videotape. The actual episode, "Brave New Metropolis", is great, but the video quality is lacking. One hopes that future selections from the DC Vault will be of better presentation quality.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5
    Audio:

    The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is very fine. Directional audio is used occasionally to good result. The moody score by Frederik Wiedmann is presented well with full audio fidelity. Special features presented in Dolby Digital Stereo are uniformly excellent.

    Special Features Rating: 3/5
    Special Features:

    The wealth of special features includes all of the following:
    Sneak Peek at Batman: Bad Blood(11:45): Footage from the animated feature due for release in the near future on Blu-ray and DVD with actor Jason O'Mara, producer James Tucker, and director Jay Oliva which is a sequel to Batman vs. Robin.

     

    Alternate Realities: Infinite Possibilities(19:24): This featurette has Michael Carling, creative director of DC Animation, and Dan DiDio, co-publisher of DC Comics, and screenwriters Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett speaking about the history of alternate realities presented in DC Comics.
    Calculated Risks: The Making of Justice League: Gods and Monsters(23:37): The producers of this film talk about the challenges of creating this brave new alternate world.

     

    The New Gods(22:13): This featurette presents a brief history of writer/artist Jack Kirby's creation of the New Gods in 1970.

     

    DC Comics Vault: Consists of the following 4 animated episodes in standard definition: "Phantoms"(22:25) from Legion of Superheroes and "Brave New Metropolis"(21:19) from Superman: The Animated Series.

     

    Trailers for Teen Titans Go!(0:33), The Man from U.N.C.L.E.(2:34), and Batman vs. Robin(1:23).

     

    Also playing by default at the beginning of the Blu-ray disc are trailers for Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem(1:43), Scooby Doo and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery(1:33), LEGO Dimensions(2:32), and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis(2:00).
    Also included are a DVD and a paper insert with a validation code for Ultraviolet for those consumers enamored with storing their media by server.

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
    Overall:

    Alan Burnett and Bruce Timm have done it again with Justice League: Gods and Monsters, an entertaining reinterpretation of the original Justice League. The video and audio presentation are very good, and there are enough special features to leave you wanting more.

     

    Justice League: Gods and Monsters is also available as part of a limited edition gift set that includes a statuette of Bekka aka Wonder Woman.

     

    Anyone who enjoyed the Batman, Superman, and Justice League animated series with which Timm and Burnett were involved will certainly enjoy Justice League: Gods and Monsters, and this release comes highly recommended.

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    Reviewed By: Timothy E
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    0 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Digital/Digital 3D, DVD and 1 more...

    Swiss Family Robinson Blu-ray Review

    Jul 26 2015 01:12 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Perhaps the finest family adventure film ever turned out by Walt Disney, Swiss Family Robinson takes only a few of the basics from the original novel by Johann Wyss and instead constructs its own devilishly entertaining tale of survival populating it with a raft of interesting people, animals, and conflicts of every description. Though over two hours, the film doesn’t drag and is so packed with content that repeated viewings yield even greater pleasures.



    Studio: Disney
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DD
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: G
    Run Time: 2 Hr. 6 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case
    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    Region: ABC
    Release Date: 06/01/2015
    MSRP: $24.95
    The Production Rating: 4.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film’s original Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is outstanding for most of the film, and color and brightness are much superior to the Vault Disney special edition release on DVD. Flesh tones are true, and color is almost always under control with only one brief moment of color pulsing witnessed. Contrast is much more consistent in this transfer than on the DVD. The movie has been divided into 18 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    There is no lossless sound mix offered here. Instead, the Blu-ray features a midrange bitrate Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix which Dolby Prologic decodes into the center channel. The dialogue (almost all of which had to be post synched after the film’s completion) sounds amazingly natural and does not fight for recognition with the background score of William Alwyn or the atmospheric effects of the island location with the sea, the wind, and the many animal sounds which predominate. No age-related artifacts like hiss or crackle are present to mar the listening experience.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonus features offered on this specialty Blu-ray disc.

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
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    A terrifically entertaining adventure tale for the whole family, Swiss Family Robinson makes a beautiful high definition disc. The audio commentary and other bonus features on the Vault Disney DVD release are much missed, but if the movie is all you’re interested in, it receives a very good rendering here. This movie is offered as part of the Disney Movie Club (www.DisneyMovieClub.com) though you can certainly find it offered for sale with varying premium prices at Amazon (see below) and through other marketplace sellers. Recommended!

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    8 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Disney

    Monte Walsh Blu-ray Review

    Jul 24 2015 12:56 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Lee Marvin had been in films for well over a decade when he scored a Best Actor Oscar for the western comedy Cat Ballou. For a good portion of its running time, William A. Fraker’s Monte Walsh repeats some of the good-natured cowboy tomfoolery reminiscent of that earlier picture, but the tone of the latter western becomes decidedly more mixed the longer it plays, and it quite suddenly and surprisingly turns from a rather light-hearted western lark to a fairly serious examination of the end of the Old West when cowboys were running out of range to ride and cattle to herd. The film features an excellent cast of leading and supporting actors playing trail hands so astutely that they look as if they were born in their saddles, but the mixture of tones can slip up on a person who might be expecting something a little more effervescent all the way through (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has a similar shift in tone), and the movie allows famed cinematographer William Fraker to helm his first feature film.



    Studio: Paramount
    Distributed By: Kino Lorber
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    Subtitles: None
    Rating: PG-13
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 46 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case
    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/28/2015
    MSRP: $29.95
    The Production Rating: 4/5
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    Video Rating: 3.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film’s Panavision aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. At its best, the transfer is beautifully sharp and wonderfully colorful with realistic skin tones throughout. But occasionally outdoor scenes seem either overly bright or lacking a bit in contrast especially compared to indoor scenes which on the whole look a great deal more consistent. Black levels are erratic: sometimes milky and other times rich, and details can sometimes be lost in shadows, but occasionally the shadow detail is quite a bit better than at other times. There are dust specks throughout the presentation getting noticeably present halfway through the film and then continuing to the end. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5
    Audio:

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is typical of its era but a lot more powerful than I was expecting and far superior to the DVD release of the film. Dialogue has been nicely recorded and is never dominated by John Barry’s ingratiating score or the atmospheric effects which also occupy the center channel in the mono mix, the cattle stampede and the wild horse roundup both delivering excellent mono sound. No age-related artifacts mar this splendid lossless mix.

    Special Features Rating: 1/5
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    Theatrical Trailer (3:20, SD)

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
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    Monte Walsh is an entertaining and acutely moving western with excellent star performances from its male leads. While the Blu-ray release is not without some flaws, it’s still heads and shoulders superior to the DVD release of the movie from five years ago. Recommended!

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    1 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Paramount, Kino

    The Love Bug Blu-ray Review

    Jul 23 2015 01:03 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Supernatural comedies were nothing new for the Walt Disney Company when Robert Stevenson’s The Love Bug became the highest grossing movie of 1969, higher than that year's Oscar-winner Midnight Cowboy, higher than the year's big musical Hello, Dolly! and higher than the rollicking western adventure Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It also spawned a clutch of sequels (soon to be reviewed) all possessing that innocent Disney charm and wholesomeness that was the company’s stock-in-trade. The movie still retains its peculiar charms, and there is a load of slapstick for the little ones, but it’s hard to believe this innocuous little film brought so many riches to the Mouse House’s mouse hole.



    Studio: Disney
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: G
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 48 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: ABC
    Release Date: 12/01/2014
    MSRP: $24.95
    The Production Rating: 3/5
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    Video Rating: 3.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film has been framed here at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Early reels have a processed and digitized look about them with flesh tones that are too saturated and occasionally too pink (especially noticeable in those rear projection process shots). Later, the quality evens out and seems much more natural. Sharpness is never a problem in close-ups and medium shots though there are occasional long shots that appear soft and indistinct. Color is always rich, and reds (especially the racing suits worn early on by Lee and Tomlinson) come across very deeply saturated but don’t quite bloom. Contrast has been applied evenly throughout, and black levels are good if not great. The movie has been divided into 15 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5
    Audio:

    This disc has been provided with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix, remixed from available elements from what was likely a theatrical mono mix. The rear channels, however, get very sparse usage as the majority of the mix concentrates on the front three channels. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel. There is occasional spillover of George Bruns’ chirpy music score into the rears, but there is very little use of the rear surrounds during the race sequences, a real disappointment in trying to widen the soundstage with this multi-channel mix.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonus features with this Disney specialty Blu-ray release.

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    Overall Rating: 3/5
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    The Love Bug is a pleasant family comedy with some fun slapstick and some clever invention along the way. Its debut on Blu-ray is most welcome even if it’s without any bonus material detailing how the Disney magic was brought about (for those who might be interested). The movie is offered as part of the Disney Movie Club (www.DisneyMovieClub.com) though you can certainly find it offered for sale with varying prices at Amazon (see below) and with other marketplace sellers.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    10 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Disney

    Real Men Blu-ray Review

    Jul 22 2015 06:30 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Chances are you’ve never heard of Real Men. And even if you have, chances are you haven’t seen it. And that’s criminal. Out of the 1980s came a number of comedies that he still herald, or at least fondly speak of, today. Police Academy, Coming to America, Vacation, and Fletch to name a few. That Real Men isn’t spoken naturally among that list of memorably funny films to come out of that decade is a mystery. The film features a playful story with an unpredictable mix of silly and comedy moments that flow naturally into, and out of the strange places the film walks into. Real Men is an unsung classic. I have been a fan since watching (and being captured by) a worn-out VHS version back in the day, it’s entirely possible that my high regard for the film is driven by nostalgia, or from the film finding me at just the right moment to both appeal to, and help form, my sense of what is funny. Released for the first time in Blu-ray courtesy of Kino with a sufficient audio and video presentation, this is the absolute best this film has looked and sounded.



    Studio: Other
    Distributed By: Kino Lorber
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    Subtitles:
    Rating: PG-13
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 25 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: Standard
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $29.95
    The Production Rating: 4/5
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    Video Rating: 3.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    Kino presents Real Men with a better than expected encode, featuring satisfactory sharpness (though still quite soft, relatively speaking,) and detail, grain structure, and reasonably good color. Exterior shots hold up the best and reveal the greater amount of clarity. This is without a doubt the best this film has looked (and is likely to look) on home video. A few specks of dust and other detritus pop up from time to time but aren’t distracting.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5
    Audio:

    The available 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio option sufficiently satisfies and is perhaps most supportive of the wonderfully playful score by Miles Goodman (a score that deserves a release…La-La Land Records, are you listening?) Dialogue is easy to understand and though the mix isn’t particularly dynamic, it handles the various shoot-outs nicely.

    Special Features Rating: 1/5
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    Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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    Real Men is stridently irreverent, clever and cavalier in ways that still give me chuckles today, and in this terrific Blu-ray release, fans old and new can remember or discover just how sharp the comedy remains today. Filled with quotable chuckles and even a few corny gags that will tease a knowing smile, Real Men is a super little film. Fans of 80s comedies should pick up a copy without delay. As a lifelong fan, I can’t recommend this enough - perhaps with the hope that more people will discover this hidden treasure and enjoy the uniqueness of this unsung comedy. Recommended!

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    Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    7 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Kino

    Pollyanna Blu-ray Review

    Jul 22 2015 01:23 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Among his many other accomplishments during his career, Walt Disney introduced quite a few impressive young performers to his television and cinematic audiences. Among his greatest finds was Hayley Mills, the daughter of distinguished British actor John Mills, who first worked for the company enlivening its 1960 comedy-drama Pollyanna. It’s a lovely film version of the novel by Eleanor H. Porter, and even though it plays a little long and could have been edited a bit more judiciously, the movie still scores in all of its major moments of joy and heartbreak, and it features a very impressive cast of award-winning actors, a list which young Miss Mills would join after the release of the film.



    Studio: Disney
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DD
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: G
    Run Time: 2 Hr. 14 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    Region: ABC
    Release Date: 06/01/2015
    MSRP: $29.95
    The Production Rating: 4/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film has been framed at 1.66:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. With much stronger, more vivid color than the previously released Special Edition DVD, the Blu-ray transfer is mostly outstanding with healthier skin tones present. Sharpness (after the opening credits) is quite good, and contrast only occasionally seems a little off. Black levels are very good but are not of reference quality. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    Disney has not used a lossless sound encode here, opting instead for Dolby Digital 2.0 which Dolby Prologic decodes into the center channel. It’s a more than decent mix with dialogue always easily discernible and combined accurately with Paul Smith’s jaunty music and the precise sound effects of the era. Age-related problems with hiss, crackle, and the like are non-existent.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonus features at all on this Disney Blu-ray specialty release.

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
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    Pollyanna may not have been a huge box-office hit in its original release in 1960, but time has treated the film very kindly accentuating its vibrant performances and most appealing period detail along with its affecting story which works its magic over a slightly overlong 2 ¼ hours. The movie is offered as part of the Disney Movie Club (www.DisneyMovieClub.com) though you can certainly find it offered for sale with varying prices at Amazon (see below) and with other marketplace sellers. Recommended (though keep the old Special Edition DVD for those cherished bonus materials)!

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    14 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Disney

    Old Yeller Blu-ray Review

    Jul 21 2015 01:25 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    For many Baby Boomers, Robert Stevenson’s Old Yeller was one of the unforgettably singular traumatic events of our childhoods. This beautifully made family film offers its simple story with admirable clarity, enjoyable scoops of humor, and so much heart that even rewatching it decades after the fact can make one misty-eyed, both for recapturing a vivid childhood memory and for appreciating now as an adult the first-rate work turned in by everyone in making this one of the supreme live-action achievements of Disney’s feature film organization during his lifetime.



    Studio: Disney
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DD
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: G
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 24 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    Region: ABC
    Release Date: 06/01/2015
    MSRP: $29.95
    The Production Rating: 4.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    Framed at 1.66:1 and presented in 1080p using the AVC codec, the high definition transfer for the film looks just fine most of the time. There is occasional softness in long shots, and sometimes color seems a trifle faded, or paler skin tones don’t seem to quite match scenes that come before and after. But for the most part, the image is clean and solid and in certain close-ups even dazzling. Compared to the Special Edition DVD released some years ago and framed at 1.75:1 in anamorphically enhanced widescreen, color values are pretty much on par with the Blu-ray (though less refined and a bit thicker), but the Blu-ray is infinitely sharper. The movie has been divided into 14 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5
    Audio:

    This specialty disc doesn’t offer a lossless sound encode. Instead, the mix is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, the mono sound replicating the mix heard in theaters with solid mid-range but not much to offer on the high and low ends. Dialogue is always easy to understand, and Oliver Wallace’s music and the sound effects all play together nicely in the single audio track. There are no age-related problems with hiss or other anomalies to report.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonus features offered with these Disney Movie Club Blu-ray specialty releases.

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
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    The movie is of prime importance, of course, and it’s certainly nice to see a clear, clean, and sharp version of Disney’s classic Old Yeller on Blu-ray. But fans of the movie will naturally be disappointed that one of the gems of the studio’s live-action holdings hasn’t been shown greater respect on Blu-ray. The movie is offered as part of the Disney Movie Club (www.DisneyMovieClub.com) though you can certainly find it offered at premium prices at Amazon (see below) and with other marketplace sites.

    Odd Shaped Cover Art:
    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    4 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Disney

    Five Easy Pieces Blu-ray Review

    Jul 20 2015 09:14 PM | Richard Gallagher in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

     

    Five Easy Pieces, a film directed by Bob Rafelson and starring Jack Nicholson and Karen Black, may be the quintessential 1970s film about alienation and anti-materialism. Film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about Five Easy Pieces: "We'd had a revelation. This was the direction American movies should take: Into idiosyncratic characters, into dialogue with an ear for the vulgar and the literate, into a plot free to surprise us about the characters, into an existential ending not required to be happy." It has now been brought to Blu-ray by Criterion with an exceptional transfer courtesy of Sony.



    Studio: Criterion
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)
    Subtitles: None
    Rating: R
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 38 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: Blu-ray Keep Case
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 06/30/2015
    MSRP: $39.95
    The Production Rating: 5/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    Five Easy Pieces is framed at 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p via the AVC codec. The picture quality is precisely what you would expect from Sony, which is to say that it is nearly flawless. The picture is very sharp, with excellent detail and accurate colors. The film's grain structure is intact. Black levels are good and shadow detail is fine. It is a treat to be able to see such a wonderful representation of the outstanding cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    The uncompressed monaural soundtrack is delivered in LPCM 48K, which is the only audio option (the commentary track is mono Dolby Digital). Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, and the audio is surprisingly powerful in the scenes at the oil field. The film's music consists of four songs by Tammy Wynette, including "Stand by Your Man," and five classical piano pieces. The music sounds very good, with not a hint of distortion or other age-related problems.

     

    There are no subtitles, which likely will make this Blu-ray a non-starter for the hearing impaired.

    Special Features Rating: 4/5
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    The extras on this Blu-ray disc include a commentary track by Bob Rafelson and his ex-wife, interior designer Toby Rafelson. They both have interesting things to say, but the track is a bit jarring because it is apparent that they were not in the same room when it was recorded. The result is that there are sudden changes of subject, often while the same scene is being discussed. Interestingly, Rafelson sort of bemoans the fact that the best-remembered scene in Five Easy Pieces is the diner scene, which while very funny really has very little to do with the story.

     

    "Soul Searching in Five Easy Pieces" is a 9-minute featurette which consists primarily of director Rafelson talking about the film, although Nicholson appears to explain that his actions in the diner scene arose from a real-life incident which occurred at a diner on Sunset Boulevard. Rafelson gives effusive praise to his co-writer, Carole Eastman.

     

    "BBS: A Time for Change" is a 28-minute featurette about the production company which was started by Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steven Blauner, and Five Easy Pieces was their first production. Also appearing are film critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley.

     

    "BBStory" is a longer (47 minutes) and more detailed look at BBS which was made in 2009. Among the participants are Rafelson, Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich, Henry Jaglom, Karen Black, and Ellen Burstyn. Some of the well-known BBS productions are The Last Picture Show; Drive, He Said; The King of Marvin Gardens; and Hearts and Minds.

     

    "Bob Rafelson at AFI" is audio excerpts from an interview which was conducted in 1976.

     

    A teaser trailer and two very similar theatrical trailers are included.

     

    Finally, there is an essay about the film by critic Kent Jones.

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    Overall Rating: 4.5/5
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    Five Easy Pieces is a remarkable character study which helped to usher in a new era of independent filmmaking in the 1970s. It belongs in the Blu-ray library of every serious film collector, and there is no better time to buy it than now, while Barnes and Noble is conducting its 50% off sale on Criterion releases.

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    Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    8 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Criterion, Sony Pictures

    Roller Boogie Blu-ray Review

    Jul 20 2015 04:09 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Very much a product of its time but possessing some entertaining qualities even now despite its low production values and some uninspired performers, Mark L. Lester’s Roller Boogie can be a lot of fun until it tries to take itself too seriously. Then, the shabbiness of the script points up its weaknesses without taking away what are its best elements: some tuneful songs of the disco era and some impressive skating stunts.



    Studio: MGM
    Distributed By: Olive
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    Subtitles: None
    Rating: PG
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 44 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: All
    Release Date: 07/07/2015
    MSRP: $29.99
    The Production Rating: 2.5/5
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    Video Rating: 3.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness varies from mediocre (long shots) to outstanding (much of the film) with the fine grain of the master giving the transfer a film-like appearance even if color occasionally seems dated. At other times, it’s bright and richly hued, and flesh tones are almost always spot-on. Black levels are just okay, and there are occasional bouts with dirt and dust specks though they’re basically not an intrusive problem. The film has been divided into 8 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5
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    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is unexceptional. The closing credits claim the movie was shot in Dolby Stereo, but the mono mix here just doesn’t have great reach or zip to it. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been combined with the music and sound effects adroitly, but with disco, one longs to hear that bass throbbing throughout song sequences, and here the low end is particularly meager.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonus features on the disc.

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    Overall Rating: 2.5/5
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    A great musical? Hardly, but Roller Boogie brings back memories of an era that Baby Boomers especially will find hard not to tap their toes to. Olive’s Blu-ray release offers a decent video and audio presentation, probably more than most fans of the movie ever expected it would receive.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    10 comments    -----    Blu-ray, MGM, Olive Films

    My Beautiful Laundrette

    Jul 19 2015 06:23 PM | Neil Middlemiss in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    My Beautiful Laundrette is a fine example of the kitchen-sink drama, with Pakistani culture in Thatcher’s England of 1985 the core subject of exploration, along with the rekindled relationship between two young men from different cultures. Though the subjects of racism, homophobia, and class struggle are candidly explored, and the inflective cultural identity of Pakistani immigrants among the capitalist-twist experienced by the UK in that decade are examined, the overriding spirit of the film is one of positivity. That it can find a wonderful streak of humor through challenges internal and external to one’s culture, is one of the great gift offered here through Stephen Frears keen direction and Hanif Kureishi’s potent script.



    Studio: Criterion
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
    Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: R
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 38 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: Standard Criterion Case
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/21/2015
    MSRP: $39.95
    The Production Rating: 4.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
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    Originally intended as a television film, My Beautiful Laundrette was shot on 16mm. Director Frears and Director of Photography Oliver Stapleton make fine use of low-light locations and the drab of South London’s streets to imbue the film with authentic textures. For the Criterion Blu-ray release, a new digital transfer was created in 2K from a 16mm interpositive made from the 16mm original A/B camera negative. Almost every scratch and flash of debris has been removed preserving the wonderful grain and feel of the film. Colors are presented excellently and the paleness of the streets and contrasting colors of home interiors are superbly rendered.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5
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    The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic track and is presented issue-free. Besides the sounds of the trains on the tracks outside Papa’s flat, the audio is tasked mainly to deliver dialogue – and does so cleanly throughout. The score by Ludus Tonalis is allowed to stand out during just a couple of well-timed moments where it signals the cheeky, lighter tone of the film. A pleasing, appropriate presentation of the audio.

    Special Features Rating: 3/5
    Special Features:

    A modest, but informative collection of special features are included on the disc, along with yet another fine accompanying essay in the fold-out booklet. The conversation between Director Frears and his producer on this film, Colin MacCabe is perhaps the most charming of the available extras, as Frears’ unflinching honesty and entertaining recollection of the era in which the film was made, prove fascinating.

     

    New conversation between director Stephen Frears and producer Colin MacCabe

     

    New interviews with writer Hanif Kureishi, producers Tim Bevan and Sarah Radclyffe, and Stapleton

     

    Trailer

     

    Essay by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor

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    Overall Rating: 4.5/5
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    My Beautiful Laundrette today plays like a surprising period piece, capturing the mid-eighties in London with considerable realism – even as the characters around that realistic London play out a story and moments in a somewhat heightened sense of real life. Bold for its time, Director Frears and team assembled a wonderful cast and elicited a fine set of performances from all involved. The love story that anchors the emotional center of the film is quite lovely and, among the dire socio-political commentary, surprisingly and warmly hopeful.

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    Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    1 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Criterion

    The Fabulous Baker Boys Blu-ray Review

    Jul 19 2015 01:22 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Steve Kloves’ The Fabulous Baker Boys is a charmer, a comedy-drama of uncommon class and featuring undeniably ingratiating performances. This kind of character-driven dramedy is pretty much unheard of in today’s marketplace apart from an occasional independent movie that slips in to steal our hearts. And yet this movie hasn’t dated at all with a trio of leading characters whom we invest in and stay with through their tumultuous ups and downs as they lumber their way toward their own new horizons.



    Studio: MGM
    Distributed By: Twilight Time
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: R
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 53 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: All
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $29.95
    The Production Rating: 4/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
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    The film is framed in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image is pleasingly sharp throughout, and color is solid and consistently maintained including very realistic skin tones. Black levels are also very good. There are sporadic little dust specks, but they’re certainly not in abundance. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5
    Audio:

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix sounds sensational with modern surround equipment. Dave Grusin’s jazzy background score and the piano and vocal sequences really shine with full, rich fidelity that’s far superior to original theatrical presentations. Dialogue has been excellently recorded and has been placed in the center channel. Atmospheric effects throughout have the ring of authenticity, and yet there are no age-related problems with hiss or other artifacts.

    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
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    Audio Commentaries: film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo are joined by the film’s writer-director Steve Kloves for a lively, entertaining, and informative discussion of the production and is a must listen for fans of the film. Carried over from the DVD release of the movie is director of photography Michael Ballhaus’ recollections of shooting the film, less effusive but interesting nonetheless.

     

    Isolated Score and Effects Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

     

    Deleted Scenes (21:16, SD): seventeen scenes (in very spotty condition) are presented in montage.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (2:47, HD)

     

    MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)

     

    Six-Page Booklet: contains a selection of color stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enthusiastic appreciation for the film.

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
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    The Fabulous Baker Boys offers entertaining comedy-drama of the old school with captivating performances from its three leads and smooth as silk direction that never makes a wrong step. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    5 comments    -----    Blu-ray, MGM, Twilight Time

    The World of Henry Orient Blu-ray Review

    Jul 18 2015 04:26 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Director George Roy Hill certainly proved himself throughout his career a versatile director ably handling such diverse movie genres as musicals (Thoroughly Modern Millie), rollicking adventure (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), epics (Hawaii), and the con game to end them all (his Oscar-winning work in The Sting). He could handle mixed genres, too, as evidenced by his work in The World of Henry Orient, a semi-farce, more closely resembling today’s dramedies but in actuality a film that really defies easy classification. It’s the best realization of girls’ emerging adolescence ever caught on screen and remains today a singularly entertaining achievement.



    Studio: MGM
    Distributed By: Twilight Time
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: Not Rated
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: All
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $29.95
    The Production Rating: 4/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The Panavision theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Engineers have done a thorough job cleaning up any age-related artifacts leaving behind a pristine picture that’s wonderfully ingratiating. Apart from a few long shots in outdoor New York locations, sharpness is first-rate with excellent detail to be found in hair, clothes, and facial features. Color is solid throughout with appealing and realistic skin tones. Black levels may not be the deepest, but they’re plenty fine enough, and contrast has been consistently maintained. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
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    The transfer offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix. It’s a very typical mono sound mix of the era with the well-recorded dialogue, Elmer Bernstein’s fine music score, and the city sound effects all blending effortlessly into a single track. No age-related problems with hiss, crackle, thumps, or flutter are present.

    Special Features Rating: 3/5
    Special Features:

    Audio Commentary: film historians Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo, and Jeff Bond have an enjoyable conversation about the movie pointing out its many strengths and few weaknesses which fans of the movie will undoubtedly enjoy hearing.

     

    Isolated Score Track: Elmer Bernstein’s score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (2:38, HD)

     

    MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06, HD)

     

    Six-Page Booklet: contains some color and black and white stills, original poster art on the rear cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enthusiastic endorsement for the movie.

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
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    Still a warm and marvelously funny motion picture, The World of Henry Orient returns us to a more innocent time in New York City with comedy and drama which are a pleasure to watch and an even greater privilege to revisit. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

    Odd Shaped Cover Art:
    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    4 comments    -----    Blu-ray, MGM, Twilight Time

    The Best of Everything Blu-ray Review

    Jul 17 2015 01:27 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Positioned midway between Fox's featherweight comedy of How to Marry a Millionaire and the overheated melodramatics of Valley of the Dolls, Jean Negulesco’s The Best of Everything likewise features three young career girls coming to the Big Apple on the hunt for fame, fortune, rich husbands, or any convenient combination of those objectives. The film allowed Fox’s rising contract players to indulge in some really juicy roles in a Cinemascope drama that’s colorful, sophisticated, and, well, increasingly soapy. In retrospect, the virtues and peccadillos of the era don’t always age well, but there are some fine star performances, and the director certainly shows a sure hand with this kind of material.



    Studio: Fox
    Distributed By: Twilight Time
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    Subtitles: English SDH
    Rating: Not Rated
    Run Time: 2 Hr. 1 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: All
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $29.95
    The Production Rating: 3.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film’s 2.35:1 Cinemascope theatrical aspect ratio is retained in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. For those who found the timing of Fox’s Blu-ray of Desk Set not to their liking, they’re not likely to like much about this transfer either. The rest of us can revel in the spotless quality of the transfer with usually very good to excellent sharpness and color that’s solid and consistent with appealing flesh tones. Occasionally, contrast in low light gives the picture a dated quality, and black levels are not the most striking feature of the transfer. Overall, though, it’s a winner. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers very good fidelity even if the dialogue track sometimes seems a trifle underpowered when mixed with Alfred Newman’s lush score and the sound effects of busy offices and the street sounds of New York City. There are no age-related problems with hiss or crackling artifacts to mar the listening experience.

    Special Features Rating: 3/5
    Special Features:

    Audio Commentary: film historian Sylvia Stoddard offers an entertaining and informative historical commentary on the movie (with only one minor error I caught saying director Jean Negulesco won an Oscar for Johnny Belinda) supplemented with frequent comments from original author Rona Jaffe who compares and contrasts her book’s narrative with the movie plot.

     

    Isolated Score Track: Alfred Newman’s beautifully evocative score is presented in marvelous sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.

     

    Fox Movietone Newsreel (1:09, SD): brief coverage of the movie’s premiere in New York.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (2:53, SD)

     

    Six-Page Booklet: contains color stills from the movie, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s extensive essay on the movie.

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    Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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    A product of its time but still an entertaining, lush Fox melodrama of the era in glorious Cinemascope, The Best of Everything looks smashing in its high definition debut via Twilight Time. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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    Read story →    15 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Fox, Twilight Time

    The Longest Ride Blu-ray Review

    Jul 16 2015 01:40 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Two pairs of star-crossed lovers, one in the present and one in the past, become coincidentally entwined in yet another adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks romance novel in George Tillman Jr.’s The Longest Ride. By now, the trope of contrasting love affairs from different eras has become a Nicholas Sparks tradition, so much so that the formula has become a bit threadbare, repetitive, and banal, and even real talent before and behind the camera can’t make stale ideas seem fresh when we’ve seen this same basic scenario play out time and again. For those who love this kind of heartfelt sentiment, this is as good an example of it as any, but the steady stream of this romantic recipe is now becoming almost ludicrously predictable.



    Studio: Fox
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
    Rating: PG-13
    Run Time: 2 Hr. 8 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $39.99
    The Production Rating: 2.5/5
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    Video Rating: 5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully presented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The modern scenes are suffused with light and appropriate contrast offering up wonderfully detailed sharpness that’s always a pleasure to watch. The scenes in the past are interesting tonally, too, even if the color has been reduced a bit and a slight brown wash placed over the picture. Color otherwise is always true and crisp with realistic skin tones throughout. The movie has been divided into 32 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix doesn’t have the punch and drive of other similar mixes. The fronts receive more heavy concentration of the mix than the rears though the music score by Mark Isham along with some country tunes does get more thorough treatment through the soundstage. Sound effects, even in the bull riding events, don’t always immerse the viewer as in the best mixes but are sporadically effective.

    Special Features Rating: 3/5
    Special Features:

    Audio Commentary: director George Tillman Jr. and actress Oona Chaplin share the track having an interesting conversation covering everything from the casting process to their impressions of North Carolina, the story, and the cast.

     

    Deleted Scenes (19:13, HD): fourteen scenes may be watched individually or in montage, and audio commentary by Tillman and Chaplin is also available to be activated.

     

    A Writer’s Journey (4:44, HD): a tongue-in-cheek look at a typical day in the life of author Nicholas Sparks.

     

    Beyond the Ride (4:14, HD): author Nicholas Sparks, director George Tillman Jr., and stars Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda, Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, and Jack Huston comment on the story and their characters.

     

    Bringing It to Life (4:33, HD): author Nicholas Sparks and co-star Alan Alda take a walk around Sparks’ North Carolina property and discuss love and marriage.

     

    Meet the Real Bull Riders (6:08, HD): announcer Brandon Bates introduces us to a succession of real bull riders, some of whom appeared in the film, who talk about their sport and the dangers and rewards it presents. Troy Brown, the film’s bull riding stunt coordinator, also comments.

     

    Luke’s Bull Riding School (4:59, HD): star Scott Eastwood trains for a week to learn to be convincing as a bull rider.

     

    Gallery (HD): twenty-five color stills and behind-the-scenes shots from the production.

     

    Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)

     

    Promo Trailers (HD): Paper Towns, The Best of Me, Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), among others.

     

    Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

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    Overall Rating: 3/5
    Overall:

    The Longest Ride will give lovers of Nicholas Sparks’ oeuvre the romantic fix they need right on cue, but the rest of us will sit and watch the clichés as they pass by quickly and furiously. At least the video quality will leave nothing to be desired, and the sound is more than adequate to the task. For admirers of gooey romance, have at it; all others beware!

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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    Read story →    1 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Fox

    House of Cards The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review

    Jul 15 2015 01:30 PM | Richard Gallagher in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

     

    House of Cards is a fascinating and compelling series about political intrigue in Washington, D.C. which has been released on Netflix before making its way to Blu-ray. Season Three, which includes episodes 27-39, is now available and is a strong inducement to engage in binge viewing. Those who have not seen the first two seasons should think twice before proceeding further because this review unavoidably includes some spoilers.



    Studio: Sony
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 DTS
    Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
    Rating: Not Rated
    Run Time: 11 Hr. 31 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
    Case Type: Gatefold with Slipcase
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/07/2015
    MSRP: $65.99
    The Production Rating: 5/5
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    Video Rating: 5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The 2.00:1 1080p image is sharp and highly detailed. From a visual standpoint House of Cards is not a particularly colorful series, but flesh tones are accurate and other colors are faithfully rendered. Black levels are solid, and shadow detail is very good. Overall, Sony has done its usual fine work in delivering a very nice Blu-ray release. The montage of time lapse photography over the opening credits is impressive, and exterior scenes were shot on location in Maryland, Washington D.C., and New Mexico. The re-creations of the interiors in the White House are outstanding and very realistic.

    Audio Rating: 5/5
    Audio:

    The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is the equal of the video. The series is dialogue-driven and every word is crystal clear. The surround channels are effectively used to convey ambient sounds and provide the musical soundtrack with an expansive soundstage (Kevin Spacey sings in one episode). Those who need subtitles will find that they are easy to read and usually placed at the bottom of the picture. English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish subtitles are available.

    Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
    Special Features:

    The extras for Season Three are minimal. There are just two nice featurettes, both of which appear on Disc Four.

     

    "Backstage Politics: On the Set of House of Cards" is a 25-minute look at how the show's episodes are put together and filmed. It includes some amusing moments.

     

    "A Death in New Mexico" is a 17-minute featurette about the filming of a key scene on location outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I cannot say anything else about the scene without giving away a major spoiler.

     

    Both featurettes are shown in 1.78:1 1080p.

     

    The only other extra is an Ultraviolet code.

     

    The packaging is still annoying. Once again Sony has opted to put the four discs into a sturdy cardboard gatefold case. The problem is that the discs have to be slipped in and out of sleeves, which makes them vulnerable to scratching and fingerprints. I am able to slide my discs in and out without scratching them, but latex gloves are necessary to avoid fingerprints. The gatefold case is stored inside a fairly strong cardboard slipcase.

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    Overall Rating: 5/5
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    House of Cards will not give you any warm and fuzzy feelings about the state of politics in the United States, but there is enough intrigue and outstanding acting to keep viewers involved and coming back for more. The show has been renewed and Season Four is tentatively set to air next February, just in time for the primary season. Which will be more entertaining, the fictional politics or the real thing?

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    Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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    Read story →    1 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Sony Pictures and 1 more...

    X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Rogue Cut Blu-ray Review

    Jul 15 2015 01:20 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    The seventeen additional minutes contained in The Rogue Cut of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past don’t constitute anything earthshatteringly different from the original theatrical release, but the film as a whole does play remarkably well with the twenty-two alternate/extended/additional scenes which have been worked into the original framework. Otherwise, Singer and company’s revised opus remains a first-rate comic book adventure tale featuring a time travel story that doesn’t make one’s eyes roll and is riddled with exciting ways to reunite so many beloved characters from this most emotional and humanistic of the Marvel franchises.



    Studio: Fox
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Other
    Rating: Not Rated, PG-13
    Run Time: 2 Hr. 28 Min./2 Hr. 11 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $29.99
    The Production Rating: 4/5
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    Video Rating: 5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film, both the original theatrical release and the new Rogue Cut, is presented in its 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. The future sequences are bathed in blackness emphasizing the bleak, stormy future that the mutants are facing, and the black levels are indeed outstanding with superb shadow detail. The 1973-set majority of the film offers outstanding sharpness and solid, rich color rendition with believable and appealing flesh tones. Contrast is perfectly modulated throughout the movie. The original film has been divided into 40 chapters while the Rogue Cut has 44 chapters with the timeline identifying which scenes are different from the original cut.

     

    The film was shot in native 3D, but that version of the film is not offered here.

    Audio Rating: 5/5
    Audio:

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix present for both the original film and the Rogue Cut offers just the kind of immersion one requires of these comic book adventure films. The entire soundstage is utilized to the max in terms of split surround effects with frequent pans across and through the soundfield, and John Ottman’s music likewise receives a full spread through the fronts and rears. LFE channel activity stays busy throughout the enterprise with wonderful bass effects that you’ll feel at certain key moments.

    Special Features Rating: 4/5
    Special Features:

    Original Theatrical Release (121 minutes, HD): the Rogue Cut is the default cut on the first disc, but this original version is available from the menu.

     

    Audio Commentaries: director Bryan Singer is present for audio commentaries for both cuts of the film. On the original theatrical cut, he’s joined by screenwriter Simon Kinberg for the livelier of the two tracks. For the Rogue Cut, he’s joined by film editor-composer John Ottman.

     

    Second Screen App: supplementary device application for use with phones and tablets while viewing.

     

    All of the other bonus materials are present on a second Blu-ray disc in the set.

     

    Mutant Vs. Machine (52:41, HD): a thorough making-of feature with many vital members of the cast and crew commenting on the production. Among those are director Bryan Singer, writer Simon Kinberg, original comic writers Chris Claremont and John Byrne, producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Hutch Parker, production designer John Myhre, costume designer Louise Mingenbach, cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, editor-composer John Ottman, sound designer Craig Berkey, special effects supervisor Derek Spears, and actors Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart.

     

    X-Men: Unguarded (30:11, HD): a roundtable discussion about their experiences with the franchise featuring director Bryan Singer, writer Simon Kinberg, and actors Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Shawn Ashmore, and Omar Sy.

     

    Art Gallery (HD): three different step-through galleries featuring storyboards, costume designs, and production design concept art for the many massive sets on the movie.

     

    Fantastic Four Sneak Peak (1:49, HD): a bit of behind-the-scene sound bites and film clips for the upcoming movie.

     

    Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

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    Overall Rating: 4/5
    Overall:

    There are new bonus features in this set, and fans of the original film will undoubtedly enjoy seeing a slightly revamped version of the original X-Men: Days of Future Past, but with no 3D present for the new cut, it’ll be up to the individual to decide whether he wants to double dip on this particular release. For those who haven’t indulged before, the movie in either cut is definitely recommended.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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    Read story →    5 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Fox

    The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review

    Jul 14 2015 01:49 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Romance is in the air in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, John Madden’s tender and amusing follow-up to his surprise 2012 hit. There is less personal angst and more romantic tensions present in this sequel, but the ebullient spirit remains intact, and India likewise remains a land of majestic color and grace even with the slew of misunderstandings, jealousies, ambitions, and confusions that figure into the overall scenario. The first one remains the better, more heartrending film, but this second one offers a fine time as we get to know and love all over again some unique and deftly individual persons.



    Studio: Fox
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Other
    Rating: PG
    Run Time: 2 Hr. 3 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $39.99
    The Production Rating: 3.5/5
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    Video Rating: 5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film’s 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is superb throughout the presentation, and color is vibrant and supremely full-bodied without ever blooming. Flesh tones are deeply saturated throughout. Contrast has been applied spectacularly well to give the picture a consistent sheen while black levels are rich and deep. The movie has been divided into 28 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5
    Audio:

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers a lively audio presentation with the dialogue beautifully recorded and placed in the center channel. Thomas Newman’s background score gets an immersive presentation through the fronts and rears and really delivers the goods during the two dance sequences (at the engagement and wedding parties). Likewise, sound effects are effectively split when necessary and pan through the soundstage occasionally to great effect.

    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
    Special Features:

    Promotional Featurettes (HD): six brief vignettes feature film clips and sound bites from the cast and crew about the making of the film. Among those offering opinions are director John Madden, writer Ol Parker, producer Graham Broadbent, production designer Martin Childs, costume designer Louise Stjernsward, and actors Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Richard Gere, and Ronald Pickup, among others.

    • Story (3:06)
    • Cast (3:38)
    • Returning to the Marigold Hotel (2:52)
    • Blossoming Relationships (2:54)
    • The Marigold Wedding (2:35)
    • Filming in India (2:34)

     

    Stills Gallery (HD): twenty-five color stills of the stars and production which can be stepped through.

     

    Theatrical Trailers (3:42, HD): two trailers which can be viewed separately or in montage.

     

    Promo Trailers (HD): Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), The Sound of Music: 50th Anniversary, Woman in Gold.

     

    Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

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    Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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    The characters are so appealing that even if The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel isn’t as fresh a surprise as the original film, it’s still a very nice place to visit for a couple of hours. The Blu-ray offers gorgeous picture and effective sound for a most enjoyable home theater experience.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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    Read story →    0 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Fox

    Fearless Frank DVD Review

    Jul 13 2015 01:23 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Filmed four years before he leapt to international stardom as the title character in the Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy but shelved after completion and only released afterward, Philip Kaufman's Fearless Frank did no favors for the movie career of Jon Voight. With talented people before and behind the camera very early in their careers, it’s obvious the filmmakers were going for something broad and highly camp (similar to what the producers of the Batman television series were able to pull off), but the timing is off throughout and most of the players simply don’t get in the groove of this simplistic cartoonish adventure.



    Studio: MGM
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Audio: English 2.0 DD
    Subtitles: None
    Rating: G
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 17 Min.
    Package Includes: DVD
    Case Type: Amaray case
    Disc Type: DVD-R
    Region: 1
    Release Date: 06/16/2015
    MSRP: $19.98
    The Production Rating: 2/5
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    Video Rating: 4/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film is presented in its Techniscope aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. It’s a very good print of the film with good to excellent sharpness (there are a couple of strange moments where it seems focus has been deliberately pulled to some inconsequential object in the foreground leaving the actors out of focus, maybe for comedy effect, but it doesn’t work), and there are only a few stray bits of dust and dirt specks. Color is nicely saturated (in one instance of a red wall, a bit of blooming is evident), and skin tones are believable and appealing. Contrast has been consistently applied. The movie has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so this film has 8 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. Despite only the tiniest bit of hiss heard in some quiet moments, the dialogue, rudimentary sound effects, and the noodling music of Meyer Kupferman work in harmony with one another in the mono track. There’s some poor post synch work at the beginning of the movie and occasionally later on, but all of the direct recording is done professionally.

    Special Features Rating: 0/5
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    There are no bonuses with this made-on-demand disc.

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    Overall Rating: 2/5
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    The curious may want to see actor Jon Voight’s introduction to movies in Fearless Frank, but this spoof of superhero films is weak and not handled with any kind of subtlety. Better to enjoy the actor’s later work in much better films like The Odessa File, Conrack, and Coming Home, and leave this one to the mists of distant memory.

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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    Read story →    2 comments    -----    DVD, MGM

    Ex Machina Blu-ray Review

    Jul 10 2015 01:16 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    A brilliantly conceived sci-fi cat-and-mouse thriller (though the identities of the cat and mice are always in question), Alex Garland’s Ex Machina will keep you guessing until its very surprising conclusion. Made on a low budget but looking like a billion dollars, this film puts many science fiction epics to shame with its beautifully plotted and characterized scenario and its unique look and sound. This is one of the best films of 2015.



    Studio: Lionsgate
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
    Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
    Rating: R
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 48 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray
    Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    Region: A
    Release Date: 07/14/2015
    MSRP: $24.99
    The Production Rating: 4.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    The film has been framed at its theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is the main problem here, occasionally razor-edged and filled with detail and oftentimes softer and gauzier in appearance even in scenes where it doesn’t make sense for there to be such softness. Color is strong and nicely controlled with believable skin tones. Black levels are good, but contrast varies sometimes to the detriment of detail. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 4.5/5
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    The DTS:X audio mix was decoded into DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 for my system (there is also a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix available for choosing). For moments where split effects are necessary (a helicopter landing and taking off, for example), the track is wonderfully expressive with effective panning through the soundstage and masterful use of bass throughout. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed mostly in the center channel with just a bit of directionalized dialogue. The jolting score by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow gets an effective spread through the fronts and rears.

    Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
    Special Features:

    Through the Looking Glass: Creating Ex Machina (39:59, HD): cast and key members of the production team cover all of the basics of the production from its original narrative structure through the casting process, its unusual production design, the costumes, and the special effects which bring the android to life. Among those speaking are writer-director Alex Garland, producers Andrew McDonald and Allon Reich, production designer Mark Rigby, director of photography Rob Hardy, costume designer Sammy Sheldon Differ, special effects supervisor Andrew Whitehurst, and stars Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Sonoya Mizuno.

     

    SXSW Q&A (1:00:57, HD): a question and answer panel held at the SXSW Film Festival in 2015. Also included in the session is the presentation of the film’s theatrical trailer (which is otherwise not present on the disc).

     

    Promotional Featurettes (28:40, HD): eight brief behind-the-scenes interviews (used for the production feature above) which cover the topics of Ava’s creation, appearance, and casting, the production design of Nathan’s lair, the new consciousness about artificial intelligence, the writer-director, casting the rest of the film, and Nathan’s God Complex.

     

    Promo Trailers (HD): Maggie, Cut Bark, A Most Violent Year, Under the Skin.

     

    Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

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    Overall Rating: 4.5/5
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    A sci-fi delight with twists and turns that keep a viewer on his toes and on the edge of his seat and featuring wonderful production design that makes the utmost out of a small budget, Ex Machina is an underrated gem fully worthy of a rental or an outright purchase if the subject matter is of any interest. Recommended!

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    Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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    Read story →    7 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Lionsgate, Universal

    Awaken (2015) DVD Review

    Jul 08 2015 06:26 PM | Todd Erwin in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    A young woman, in search of her lost sister, awakens on the shore of an island in director Mark Atkins' latest exploitation actioner, Awaken, starring Natalie Burn and a host of 1980s action sidekicks, including Robert Davi, Michael Pare, and Vinnie Jones. The result is an entertaining callback to the low-budget action thrillers of the late 1980s and early 1990s.



    Studio: Other
    Distributed By: Other
    Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DD
    Subtitles: None
    Rating: R
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min.
    Package Includes: DVD
    Case Type: DVD keepcase with outer sleeve
    Disc Type: DVD-5 (single layer)
    Region: 1
    Release Date: 07/07/2015
    MSRP: $20.99
    The Production Rating: 3.5/5
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    Video Rating: 4/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    Unfortunately, ARC Entertainment is releasing Awaken only on DVD and Digital HD. The good news is that the DVD looks pretty good when upscaled on my Sony BDP-S5100 blu-ray player to my Samsung UN60F7100 HDTV. Colors are natural and consistent throughout. Contrast is also very good, with deep blacks that appear to exhibit minimal crush and whites that never seem to blow out. Fine detail was a big surprise, providing textures in the sand and even in Natalie Burn's hair.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    Awaken is presented in a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 track, encoded at 448 kbps. This is a fairly immersive track, with good surround activity and a nice, deep low-end. Dialogue is intelligible and never gets lost in the mix, while the percussive and Latin-influenced score by Al-Atrakchi and Ralston comes through quite nicely.

    Special Features Rating: 1/5
    Special Features:

    The only special feature on the disc is the official trailer.

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    Overall Rating: 3.5/5
    Overall:

    I would have preferred if ARC had released Awaken on Blu-ray, and possibly thrown in some bonus features, even a brief EPK on the making of the film. Otherwise, the film is a great way to spend 90 minutes and munch down a big bowl of popcorn.

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    Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    2 comments    -----    DVD

    Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights Blu-ray Review

    Jul 08 2015 06:08 PM | Todd Erwin in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

    Some movies exist for entertainment, while other exist for the sole purpose of selling more merchandise. Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights falls into the latter category. Tweenage girls may delight in the "movie," but parents may have nightmares from allowing their children to watch it.



    Studio: Universal
    Distributed By: N/A
    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DTS, French 5.1 DTS
    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
    Rating: Not Rated
    Run Time: 1 Hr. 1 Min.
    Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
    Case Type: 2-disc Blu-ray keepcase with outer sleeve
    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
    Region: A, 1
    Release Date: 07/07/2015
    MSRP: $26.98
    The Production Rating: 1.5/5
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    Video Rating: 2.5/5
    3D Rating: NA
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    Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights arrives on Blu-ray in a AVC-encoded 1080p transfer that many may find looks almost as if it was upscaled from a 480p source. That is likely not the case, and the fault may lie more in the quality (or lack thereof) in the animation techniques and how those shortcomings were overcome in the eventual source master. As I noted above in my review of the content, there is an overall softness in the image, almost a haze, that appears throughout, thereby reducing most of the fine detail. The color palette leans more towards pastels, and for the most part, they are consistent, but are often dull and lifeless, which is odd considering this is supposed to be about high fashion design.

    Audio Rating: 4/5
    Audio:

    If I were to be asked if there was anything good about Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights, it would have to be the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This is a rather lively and active track, with a good low-end bass response and immersive surrounds. Dialogue is directed mostly to the center channel, but never gets drowned out by the score or sound effects.

    Special Features Rating: 2/5
    Special Features:

    Ever After High Specials (1080p): Two episodes of the Netflix Original Series, Ever After High, are included, Legacy Day (22:53) and True Hearts Day (23:30).

     

    DVD Copy: The movie in 480p and Dolby Digital 5.1; trailers for Monster High: Boo York, Boo York, Barbie in Rock and Royals, Barbie and Her Friends in The Great Puppy Adventure, Minions, Monster High: Haunted, Monster High: Freaky Fusion, Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action!, Monster High: Fright On/Escape from Skull Shores, Monster High: 13 Wishes, Monster High: Ghouls Rule, and Monster High: FRiday Night Frights/Why Do Ghouls Fall In Love; and the two Ever After episodes.

     

    Digital HD Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy through both Ultraviolet partners and iTunes. The code is subject to expiration, but no expiration date was provided.

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    Overall Rating: 2/5
    Overall:

    Definitely for tweenage girls, Monster High: Scaris, City of Frights may be challenging viewing for adults. The good news is that for families that subscribe to the Netflix streaming service, the movie (along with several other films in the franchise) is readily available, along with the Ever After High series.

    Odd Shaped Cover Art:
    Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
    Amazon Code:
    Read story →    0 comments    -----    Blu-ray, Universal, TV Reviews