Split - Casey, Claire and Marcia have been kidnapped and are being held captive by Kevin, a troubled man whose 23 distinct personalities - known collectively as the Horde - take turns controlling his body. Members of the Horde explain to the girls that in anticipation of its emergence they have been chosen as sacrifices to a powerful, twenty-fourth personality known as "The Beast" - an entity that believes it represents the evolution of mankind and whose purpose it will be to change the world.
Comments: An enjoyable movie by M. Night Shyamalan has been a long time coming but, at last, it's here. This movie had an interesting story, good suspense and pacing, solid performances by the co-stars and an outstanding performance by James McAvoy.
Allied - In 1942, after they've killed some Nazis in Casablanca, RCAF officer Max Vatan - the most dull and dour Canadian you'll ever meet - inexplicably asks his partner, French operative Marianne Beauséjour, to return with him to London and be his wife. One year later, Max - now both a husband and a father - is informed by Special Operations Executive (SOE) that Marianne is suspected of being a German spy, and that if within three days SOE's suspicions are confirmed he will have to kill her.
- The good: Marion Cotillard's fine performance. Cool period set pieces and fashions.
- The bad: Brad Pitt's leaden and emotionless performance. (Was he instructed to be so relentlessly drab?) A lack of chemistry between the leads. (Thanks, Brad.) A simple - and sometimes comically trite - story stretched too thin over too long a run-time.
- The verdict: Barely watchable. (Thanks again, Brad.)
Don't Breathe - Their sure-fire break-and-enter scheme provides them with steady income, but delinquents Rocky, Alex and Money keep hoping for a bigger score. Their wishes are granted when Money receives a tip about an enormous sum of cash rumoured to be stashed in a home in a desolate suburb of Detroit belonging to a blind, solitary Iraq War veteran. A B&E plan is hatched and quickly put into motion. What could possibly go wrong?
Comments: Although it was a bit lightweight and featured ethically-challenged protagonists, this was a decent-enough suspense flick.
Blu-ray: PQ and AQ - which included some good shots of LFE - were perfect.
La La Land - Mia is an aspiring but increasingly disillusioned actress who has spent years chasing that elusive breakthrough role. Sebastian, a soulful pianist with wasted talents, desperately wants to save jazz and plans to open a night club to do it. Their paths cross and, after a tenuous courtship, they fall in love and decide to pursue their dreams together...uncertain of whether their relationship will weather the storms of success.
Comments: I wasn't sure about this movie for roughly the first half hour but as it went on I increasingly enjoyed it right to the wonderful, bittersweet ending. The story - familiar yet imaginative - was filled with some great musical and jazz numbers and featured terrific performances by and good chemistry between the leads. Props to Ryan Gosling - a versatile actor - for his piano-playing chops.
The Magnificent Seven - An eclectic group of gunmen comes to the aid of the desperate inhabitants of a small mining town whose existence is threatened by a greedy and unscrupulous land baron.
Comments: This 2016 remake of the classic Western (reworking of a classic samurai) film had very leisurely pacing and was (understandably) cliché-filled. But it was watchable, thanks in no small part to Denzel and the lovely and talented Haley Bennett. Chris Pratt was mostly annoying; Vincent D'Onofrio - who seems to enjoy playing quirky, dishevelled characters - was amusing.
Blu-ray: PQ was excellent. AQ - immersive and appropriately thunderous - was perfect.
The Wizard of Oz - Accidentally knocked unconscious when a cyclone sweeps through her uncle's Kansas farm, Dorothy Gale awakens to find herself in the magical Land of Oz. To return home, she must seek out the help of the great Wizard of Oz who lives in the distant Emerald City. As she travels along the Yellow Brick Road toward the City - all the while doing her best to avoid the malicious and vengeful Wicked Witch of the West - Dorothy is joined by the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the cowardly Lion, each of whom hopes to be granted a wish by the Wizard.
Comments: The story is very simple, the dialogue is frequently weak and Judy Garland's gaspy delivery can be annoying...but the biggest offender is the Munchkins scene, which is far too long and embarrassingly bad. (I will never sit through it again.) That said, this 1939 classic features some wonderful musical numbers, great visuals and excellent make-up work (Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion).
Blu-ray: PQ - especially bright and colourful Oz - was very good. AQ was also very good, but not all that immersive.
Inferno - A crazed geneticist has created and hidden a deadly "Inferno" virus that will destroy half of the human inhabitants of an overpopulated world so that the other half and their ecosystem can survive and thrive. Professor Robert Langdon has little time to find and contain the virus before it is released upon the world. The only things that stand in his way are a hired assassin, a rogue government agent, a betrayal and a nasty bout of amnesia.
Comments: This big, busy and increasingly ridiculous movie was chock full of foot chases and highly-improbable situations. Tom Hanks made lemonade with the lemons he was given. Irrfan Khan's character was entertaining.
Hacksaw Ridge - Desmond Doss - a conscientious objector who has forsworn violence - joins the army as a battlefield medic and saves many lives over a period of three weeks during the Battle of Okinawa.
Comments: From the development of its main character to the graphic depictions of the savagery of war, this based-on-a-true story and its well-paced telling were better than expected...until the third act when the protagonist's heroics became almost comically excessive. Solid performances by Andrew Garfield and Hugo Weaving (as Doss' broken father). Vince Vaughn seemed somewhat miscast as a hard-nosed sergeant.
Blu-ray: PQ was one instance of banding shy of perfect. AQ - clear, immersive and appropriately thunderous - was perfect.
Hell or High Water - In order to avert foreclosure and regain ownership of their family's ranch, two brothers decide to rob a number of the offending bank's branches, launder the money through a nearby casino and use the proceeds as payment. With the clock ticking and the cops on their trail, getting the job done right and on time isn't going to be easy.
Comments: I enjoyed this movie's lean and laid-back story, steady pacing, interesting characters and solid performances. (Jeff Bridges' thick-tongued vocalization - which seems to have gotten thicker over the years - was a bit distracting at times.)
Logan - 4K UHD-BD: In the not too distant future of 2029, some things have stayed the same but a lot has changed. Mutants are a dwindling species and no new mutants have been born in years. The once infamous X-Men are no more. Logan the once fearsome mutant with razor-sharp claws has retreated to the deserts of Mexico. By night he works as a limo driver along the border in Texas. By day he returns to a dilapidated factory building to care for Charles Xavier with the help of the mutant tracker Caliban. As Charles' degenerative brain disorder requires stronger and stronger medication, Logan faces his own mortality as his powers to heal diminish leaving him scarred and battered.
Logan would like nothing more than to retreat completely from humanity - but his loyalty to Charles keeps pulling him back into public life. When a mysterious woman named Gabriela and a small mute girl named Laura locate Logan looking for help getting to North Dakota, Logan's quiet life is completely turned on end. Promised thousands of dollars in cash, Logan reluctantly takes the job, only to find a heaping helping of trouble.
As it happens Laura is a mutant with very similar abilities and fierce temperament to Logan's own. With a gang of mercenaries after them led by Pierce Logan has no other choice but to deal with his past and truly become the hero everyone believes him to be by helping Laura find her friends and escape to freedom. This is a truly excellent movie and everything you would hope to see out of a Wolverine movie.
P/Q: The 4K-BD is absolutely stunning with a 2160p 2.39:1 transfer. Detail levels enjoy a subtle uptick in clarity. Caked dust on Logan's limo becomes more defined. You can see intricate threading in clothing, the occasional bullet hole or two, and the makeup effects look spectacular. The effects are particularly impressive after Logan's opening fight where he's in the bathroom struggling to heal highlighting all of the wounds he's received over the years. Desert vistas and scenery look incredible offering up beautiful landscapes while the production design work gets a little extra room to breathe. The colors really come to life with HDR as well, Primaries get a stronger push while the highlighted yellows and browns maintain their vivid dominance. Flesh tones also appear more lifelike - for those who have lifelike coloring. Caliban's pale coloring and his subsequent blistering from sun exposure look more defined. Black levels are greatly improved allowing blacks to dip into true black territory while shadows better define object depth. Darker scenes like the interior of Logan's hideout or later night scenes offer up far better image clarity and better shadow separation. It's the kind of image you want to just pause and look at.
A/Q: The movie arrives with an awesome Dolby Atmos track(DTS HD for standard BD) that will give your system a true workout. The atmospherics offer up a terrific sense of space and dimension - especially in open buildings like the holding tank where Charles is being kept. Dialogue comes through clean and clear throughout without any interference or overlap with the sound effects or scoring elements. The LFE tones really up their game - especially during the scenes where Charles has his seizures. The low heartbeat drubbing coupled with the tinnitus ringing really adds to the intensity of the moment. Gunshots get to enjoy some extra oomph and pizzazz. As there is near constant surround activity, there is never a dull moment with this mix. Front, sides, angles, and rears allow any given scene to sound more natural with an immersive life-like quality to it.
This UHD-BD is highly recommended and the movie does the character justice. 5/5
John Wick 2 4K-BD Amazon was nice enough to ship this one out to me early as I don't think its actually released yet. The movie picks up shortly after the events of the first one and he is in pursuit of his cherished '69 Ford Mustang, kept at a chop shop owned by Abram Tarasov, Viggo's brother and Iosef's uncle. After securing the car in the awesome opening scene that is sure to give your sound system a proper workout we see John back at home when he gets a visit from Italian crime boss Santino D'Antonio. When John lightly went back into the crime world he left behind has garnered some unintended attention, particularly a blood-oath promise made to D'Antonio called a Marker. If the first movie was John's focused pursuit of vengeance, an emotional journey to regain a semblance of hope that was taken away from him after his wife's death, then this sequel is a pilgrimage for atonement, to find some sort of absolution for his sins. As hinted by Winston a woman brought John out the darkness and gave him a taste of goodness, but the ghosts of his former life will forever haunt him, like a thorn in the back of the mind that can never be removed. Will John get out alive or will this task prove to much even for the boogeyman.
P/Q: John Wick charges into the assassin underworld with a high-class, top-drawer HEV H.265 encode in HDR10, although it was Shot digitally using the Arri Alexa camera system up to 3K resolution, so it is an up convert not a true 4K release, but it is nonetheless more revealing with appreciably better definition of the most minute detail. From the individual bricks of the buildings in New York or the catacomb ruins to every hair and fiber in the costumes, fine lines are consistently distinct and resolute, exposing the tiniest imperfection in the ancient buildings of Rome while making Wick's house and the Continental look all the more immaculate because nothing seems out of place. Even in medium shots of cast members, viewers can make out the tiniest pore, scratch and wrinkle, making every nick and wound on our antihero's face clearer while everyone else comes with incredible lifelike textures and black levels are richer and more luxurious than before, providing the clothing and vehicles with a mesmerising silkiness and lush inkiness. The darkest portions of the frame never engulf the finer details while maintaining exceptional gradational differences between the various shades. The palette also reveals this 2160p video a massive upgrade over the Blu-ray, dazzling the screen on various occasions with fuller, more passionate reds and intensely electrifying blues. Here, owners have their choice of action sequence to demo because they all come with a wider array of vividly bold colors while the richly-saturated neon lights glow more energetically and with a bit more enthusiasm. Even in the distance, advertisements twinkle and glitter with a passionate intensity.
The 4K presentation is simply amazing and sharp, as if watching it again in theatres, and it is the definitive way of enjoying the awesome action sequel.
A/Q: For those of you who are on the fence about upgrading to the new sound formats of Dolby Atmos/DTS-X this movie will definitely seal the deal for you as the sound is true reference quality in every way. John Wick 2 arrives on Dolby Atmos just like the first movie and immediately in the opening moments, the design erupts with the muffled, throaty growls of a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle roaring through the city streets. The entire room fills with the echoes of screeching tires as the muscle car skids across tight turns, and much of that reverberates into the ceiling channels, further pulling viewers into Mr. Wick's focused reality. Things only get better, I mean demo-worthy better, during the two major shootouts at the catacombs and the museums. In those incredibly immersive moments, the blasts of gunfire bounce off the walls and resonate into every speaker, generating an awesomely satisfying sound field that fully immerses the listener into the action. Meanwhile, bullets ricochet off walls and debris flies into the sides and rears. Quieter scenes are not quite as active or immersive, but the occasional ambient effect is subtly heard to keep things from falling into complete silence.
Most of the object-based mix crowds the front sound stage with lots of background activity. Whether it's the endless commotion of city traffic, the loud cheers of spectators at a concert or Wick walking around the rubble of his house, imaging continuously feels spacious and broad as a variety of noise litters and moves convincingly between all the three channels. A very dynamic mid-range exhibits extraordinary detailing in the loudest, most tumultuous segments, delivering exceptional clarity in every crunch of metal on metal and in every gunshot fired. In fact, tiny bits of glass shower everywhere with crystalline directionality, cars grind against one another with ear-piercing precision, and debris from bullets ricocheting off walls and statues land on the floor with incredible realism. Amid all the mayhem, dialogue remains distinct and intelligible. Meanwhile, a commanding low-end digs deep with authority on several occasions, providing action sequences with a powerful palpability and a room-energizing oomph in the music.
This is a classic no brainier don't have to think to hard action movie that truly shines on 4K UHD-BD and should be a must own for demo purposes alone.
Logan - Even as their powers wane and their lives slip slowly from them, Logan and Charles Xavier are drawn into a battle to save a young mutant girl and her mutant friends from certain death at the hands of the organization that bred them to be soldiers but which - having developed a superior weapon - now wishes to destroy them.
Comments: Despite the excess of shooting, slashing and running around, this was an enjoyable movie thanks to a good story, a satisfyingly sombre tone, interesting and sympathetic characters and solid performances.
Get Out - A young black man agrees to accompany his white girlfriend to her parents' remote estate for a weekend get-away. Pleasant and quirky at first, the visit soon devolves to disturbing and creepy as the behaviour of her family, their staff and visitors becomes increasingly bizarre.
Comments: I expected a suspense-horror flick, but got a suspense-comedy instead. Thankfully, it was a well-executed and enjoyable movie. Good performances by the leads, especially Daniel Kaluuya.
John Wick: Chapter 2 - Just as elite assassin John Wick is about to relapse into retirement, crime boss Santino D'Antonio - the one man to whom Wick is indebted for a favour - calls in his marker and demands that Wick kill D'Antonio's sister, Gianna, so that he can assume her place at the head of a more-powerful criminal organization. As a result of the hit and its inevitable repercussions - including Wick's desire for revenge against D'Antonio and the contract D'Antonio puts out on Wick in order to stop him - an astounding number of people in Rome and New York die.
Comments: As expected, JW:C2 was more - a lot more - than JW, which made it less than JW. If the movie's ending is any indication, Chapter 3 will continue the trend with a body count that promises to dwarf that of Chapter 2.
Blu-ray: PQ and the appropriately thunderous AQ were perfect.
Power Rangers: 4K Ultra HD BD I was 13 when the original series came out and wasn't all that interested in it, but thanks to my younger cousins who spent a lot of time at my house growing up the show always seemed to be on and as such I got to know it well. The movie follows 5 teenagers who come together through chance. We start with Jason Scott the school football star and local celebrity, who after a failed prank resulted in house arrest and Saturday detention for the rest of the school year. There, he meets two of his future teammates, Kimberly Scott and Billy Cranston. Scott did a very bad thing ruining a friend's trust, and Billy . . . ? Well, he's the typical highly intelligent nerd who really loves playing with explosives. In a mix of plot convenience and cosmic fortuity, the last two Rangers, Trini and Zack, were already unwinding in search for some peace of mind at the quarry when the other three made a big boom, disrupting their tranquil meditation. There they find the power coins and their new found power. Each of the characters is a unique personality with genuinely troubling problems that explain their delinquent behaviour and perspective of the world. From there the story doesn't simply have the kids become a team, but has them earn it, starting with learning to get along and using their anger for something greater than themselves. When Rita Repulsa shows up, she functions as an emblematic example of what that unchecked rage can become; she used to be a Green Ranger until her anger and greed completely consumed her. Will they learn to work together to stop an enemy they don't completely understand?
P/Q: The mighty morphing power rangers arrive on Ultra HD BD in what is a truly stunning, reference-quality HEVC H.265 encode in Dolby Vision, marking it the first live-action film on a physical media with Dolby Vision HDR. For anyone without a Dolby Vision-capable HDR-display, the disc will default to HDR10. On my display(Panasonic EZ1000) the movie defaulted to HDR10 and it was breathtaking. Whether you like the movie or not the visuals are unreal and a real treat to watch. I couldn't imagine an already demo-worthy Blu-ray being bested, but here it is, a 4K presentation that handily outshines its SDR counterpart. Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the 2160p video also impresses with a pitch-perfect and brighter contrast, keeping the action and drama endlessly vivid and optimistic. From beginning to end, whites are beaming and wash over every scene with an intense luminosity without hampering other areas of the picture. Specular highlights are phenomenal for a live-action film, providing the Ranger uniforms, Rita's staff and various other metal objects with a more realistic glow and roundness when light bounces off them. This is where HDR really shines as it shows an improvement as that same glow seems tighter and more controlled, revealing a better outline and definition in those objects. When the sun shines on faces, the furrows and pores remain discrete and are not engulfed by the glow. A good example of this is when the teens finally morph and the intensely bright light of the Grid overwhelms them. After reading up on the film I found that it was shot on the Red Epic Dragon camera system, capable of up to 6K resolution and later transferred into a 4K digital intermediate, and on Ultra HD, the transfer delivers razor-sharp definition in the clothing and costumes. Even the threading and stitching in the Power Ranger uniforms are better defined while every smudge of dirt and blemish on Rita Repulsa's surprisingly sparse outfit is made more plainly visible. The tiniest object aboard Zordon's spaceship is resolute and distinct in the distance, the internal wires of Alpha 5's robotic body are clearly delineated, and the lettering on buildings and signs are surprisingly more legible than before.
A/Q: The rangers soar onto Ultra HD BD with a tremendous reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack that utilizes the entire soundscape on various occasions.
The most surprising aspect of the design is how often the ceiling channels are employed, not only during explosive action sequences but also in several of the more mundane, dialogue-driven moments. When Jason visits Billy, mom's voice can be heard in the top rear, or while the kids are training, the sound of water dripping and tiny pebbles fall all around the entire room. There are also several scenes of conversations echoing into every speaker, adding another layer of realism. When the action erupts in the last quarter of the movie, debris flies in every which direction and Pink Ranger's Dinozord flies overhead with flawless panning, generating a terrifically satisfying dome-like sound field. It will definitely impress.
Nighthawks: Finally after waiting years or even decades I finally get my favourite Stallone movie on Blu-Ray thanks to shout factory. Sylvester Stallone and Rutger Hauer star in this riveting story of suspense and intrigue that starts in London, continues in Paris and reaches its chilling conclusion on the streets of New York.
When Europe's most feared terrorist Wulfgar, explosively announces his presence in Manhattan, two elite undercover cops (Stallone and Billy Dee Williams) are assigned to stop him before he strikes again. But the ruthless terrorist has other plans for the city - and the detectives.
This edge-of-your-seat thriller is highly under rated and well ahead of its time. Nighthawks is something of a cult favourite for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its cast.
P/Q: Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray offers the film in very good 1080p HD video quality at the original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The print is in fine condition, with excellent detail and texturing, nice contrast, deep shadows, and moderate film grain that’s appropriate to both the period and the subject matter. Colors are strong and accurate, even vibrant when needed (note the bold neon lighting in the disco scene).
A/Q: The audio is available in a solid English 2.0 mono mix in DTS-HD Master Audio format. The sound quality is good, with clear dialogue and excellent mono music fidelity. That’s a plus, given that the score was composed by Keith Emerson from the English prog-rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. (It’s also worth noting that the score is intact here for the first time on home video; both The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar and Emerson’s Spencer Davis Group cover of I’m a Man play during the club scene. Previous versions replaced these tracks due to music licensing issues.) The mix offers a fairly wide front/center soundstage that works well for the film.
Extras: The real surprise here is that Shout!’s Blu-ray includes a substantial batch of extras (the disc was originally announced as a bare-bones title, but become a Collector’s Edition when the Shout Select line was announced). Produced by Cliff MacMillan, they include 6 new interview featurettes. Lights, Camera, Action! (HD – 16:10) is an audio interview with producer Herb Nanas. We Gotta Shoot This! (HD – 24:37) is a video interview with director of photography James A. Contner. A Sign of the Times (HD – 10:24) features Lindsay Wagner talking about her role and career. Not the Other Girls (HD – 4:24) is a short interview with actress Catherine Mary Stewart. Nighthawks: The First Draft (HD – 9:49) is an interview with original writer Paul Sylbert, who talks about how his original draft differed from the final version. And It Was Hell (HD – 10:50) features an interview with technical adviser Randy Jurgensen. You also get the film’s theatrical trailer (SD – 4x3), a short collection of radio spots, and a gallery of still images (HD – 6:42 if auto played). I’m told from Brian Ward that Shout! did try to get Stallone and Hauer to participate in the extras, but they declined. Shout also tried to obtain deleted footage from the film, but Universal didn’t allow it to be included. In any case, this is still a lot more bonus material for this film than we’ve ever had before.
Nighthawks can’t rightly be called a great film, but it’s a pretty damn good one and my favourite Stallone movie. Stallone and Hauer both deliver terrific performances. If you’re a fan, Shout’s new Blu-ray is well worth your time and money. In terms of both A/V quality and extras, it puts all previous home video versions to shame. Highly Recommended.
T2 Trainspotting - Twenty years have passed since Mark Renton chose life over heroin, stole the drug money from his friends and traded Edinburgh for Amsterdam. When fate returns him to Edinburgh, Spud - ever the junkie - is happy to see his old friend. Shady entrepreneur Sick Boy can't wait to settle his grudge against Mark. And Begbie - furious, unforgiving and recently escaped from prison - is determined to kill Renton for his betrayal.
Comments: This was a well-written, well-acted and worthy follow-up to the original. My one small gripe is that the soundtrack was occasionally a bit overbearing.
Blu-ray: PQ was excellent, with grain in some of the darker scenes. AQ was perfectly big and bold.
A forum community dedicated to Canadian TV, computing and home theatre owners and enthusiasts. Come join the discussion about home audio/video, displays, troubleshooting, styles, projects, DIY’s, product reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more!