Captain America: Civil War (2016)


It all started in 2008, with the now iconic post credit scene featuring Samuel L Jackson telling Robert Downey Jr that he wanted to talk to him about the “Avengers Initiative” Thus launching the unprecedented Marvel Cinematic Universe… Now here we are eight years, and thirteen massive blockbusters later; we’re at War. Civil War to be exact. Captain America: Civil War, the huge blockbuster hit of the summer that finally addresses the question of consequences in the superhero world debuted on Blu Ray this week; and boy does it make an impact! Packed with special features and an audio and video transfer that just doesn’t give up, Civil War is the game changing action film of 2016 that diehards MCU-ites and casual fans alike NEED to add to their collections! Team Cap or Team Iron Man? Choose your side and check out my review!

PICTURE QUALITY:


This flick is FULL of spectacle and CGI, and never once does anything look like it doesn’t belong. The contrasts and colors are top notch, with all the bright gear adorned by these larger than life characters always looking EXACTLY how you’d expect it to look. Blacks are deep, reds are vibrant, the blue in Cap’s costume is as vivid as it should be. The finer details, like the metallic arm of the Winter Soldier shine and pop in all the right places. The larger action set pieces come with a bit of grain, but nothing too detracting. Nothing ever comes across as too dull or too flat; this is an overall terrific presentation from Disney this time around.

AUDIO QUALITY:

Avengers: Age of Ultron had this same problem… SOMETHING is off about the DTS 7.1 audio. It’s just a little too hushed in conversation, and just a little too loud everywhere else. The levels are good, but not consistent enough to give it a perfect audio score. It’s not BAD by any means, but at normal levels you’ll find yourself struggling JUST a bit to hear some of the more hushed conversations, only to turn your volume up and be nearly deafened by the next explosion. It’s inconsistencies like this that keep Captain America: Civil War from being a reference quality BD, at least in terms of audio standards.

SPECIAL FEATURES:


Ever since Disney started distributing Marvel’s Blu Rays, the biggest complaint for collectors has been the SEVERE lack of special features. Gone were the Iron Man 2 days, where the bonus content was lengthy enough that it came housed on its own disc.  Thankfully, Civil War seems to be a step back in the right direction; featuring a fairly long “making of” called United We Stand, Divided We Fall -- The Making of Captain America: Civil War. This is the primary behind the scenes doc of the movie, and is broken up in to two parts, both at just under a half hour each. Coupled with that is a commentary by the Russo brothers, a smattering of deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a few other featurettes: Captain America: The Road to Civil War, Iron Man: The Road to Civil War, Open Your Mind: Marvel's Doctor Strange -- Exclusive Sneak Peek. Sure, I’d still love to see more, but then again, I’m a special features hound… beggars can’t be choosers I suppose.

OVERALL:

Captain America: Civil War interweaves global politics, personal ideals, and impressively crafted action into one of the most complete movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It's deep, it’s smart, and it’s intense, it’s just overall a genuinely strong picture that seamlessly blends together expert level storytelling (far outside of what you’d expect from general summer blockbuster popcorn fare) with near flawlessly crafted stunts and thrills. It's sure to leave a huge mark on the Marvel universe in the coming films, serving as, easily, the biggest game-changer yet in the series. Disney's Blu-ray is excellent, featuring an asbolutely great video transfer and really good audio along with a healthy allotment of extra content for a change. This one comes very highly recommended.
 

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)


2005, Christian Bale plays Batman for the first time in Batman Begins. Critics and audiences are blown away, the film goes on to spawn TWO monsterly successful sequels, and people are convinced the world over that we’ve seen the perfect Batman. Fast forward to 2013, and it’s announced that BEN AFFLECK would be taking up the cape and cowl in the upcoming Superman V Batman (which at the time didn’t have an official title) movie. The internet basically broke. Fanboys V detractors…  three years later, Warner Brothers releases what is probably going to be one of, it not THE most divisive comic book movie of the past decade: Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Stemming from the initial Affleck backlash and spiraling from there, never before has a comic book movie had SO MUCH hype to live up to, that no matter what ended up happening in the (bloated) 2 and a half hour run time… it was bound to let people down. This past week on Blu Ray, Dawn of Justice dropped with an EVEN LONGER “ultimate cut” which was supposed to ease doubts of the DC cinematic universe and win over some detractors who were underwhelmed, or just completely pissed off at, the theatrical version. Of course I picked it up, and of course I covered it. Check out my review below:
 
(Note: I’m not reviewing THE MOVIE itself, personally I loved it, and loved the ultimate cut that much more, I’m just covering the tech stuff… if you didn’t like this movie you may not care to read the review, that’s fine... you’re adopted anyway.)

PICTURE QUALITY:

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice comes to Blu Ray courtesy of Warner Brothers Home Video, from director Zack Snyder and his longtime collaborator Larry Fong, who served as cinematographer for the director in the past on his OTHER divisive comic book adaptation, Watchmen. If you’re going into this film looking to rectify what you thought was a “dark” movie in the theatres, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s a dark film, very desaturated, muted colors, hushed tones and scarce lighting are central elements here, and on that, Warner’s transfer gets a great score. Basically, it looks how it’s supposed to look. The CGI (which is basically every fight scene in the movie) looks crisp, and clear; Doomsday never looks out of place or fake during the 3rd act. There’s a few grain issues in some of the faster moving sequences, but nothing that is too distracting to an average viewer. It’s a solid picture across the board.
 

AUDIO QUALITY:
 
BvS thunders onto Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that fully delivers on fans' expectations for an epic superhero showdown. The new version of the Batmobile literally roars every time it’s on screen. Explosions and building collapses are almost painfully real. The collaboration of Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL has produced one hell of a score, with Wonder Woman’s’ and Lex Luthors’ themes being stand outs in an overall impressive soundtrack.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
 
Dawn of Justice comes loaded with a bunch of EPK featurettes, mostly promotional stuff for the vast DC film universe to come, a few focused on the “Trinity” of heroes that appear in this film, peppered with a few technical goodies to satisfy the behind the scenes hounds out there.
They are: Uniting the World's Finest, Gods and Men: A Meeting of Giants, Accelerating Design: The New Batmobile, The Warrior, the Myth, the Wonder, Superman: Complexity and Truth, Batman: Austerity and Rage, Wonder Woman: Power & Grace, Batcave: Legacy of the Lair, 
The Might and the Power of a Punch, The Empire of Luthor, Save the Bats.

OVERALL:


 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, as I stated above, was DIVISIVE. The extra half hour isn’t really going to change opinions that much; yes, the extra half hour does solve quite a bit of the “pacing problems” audiences seemed to have, and does flesh out major characters QUITE a bit more… but if you hated it in the theatres, chances are you’ll find a reason to hate it at home too. Maybe you rent it to check out the bevy of bonus content for the REST of the DC universe? If you haven’t given up on it completely that is. Personal feelings aside, the movie comes home with a great video transfer and a SUPER audio track…. Technically, it’s worth it.
 

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

          I remember back in 2007, sitting down to watch the first Transformers film; and before it started, a trailer played: It featured a group of twenty somethings at a party in a loft in NYC, nothing fancy… cool, another romantic comedy. THEN, the lights go out and the entire building shakes. The group in focus runs up to the rooftop to witness a MASSIVE explosion; as they flee the building, the camera shakes and cuts in and out. The group arrives downstairs only to see the HEAD of the STATUE OF LIBERTY hurdling towards them. END OF TRAILER. 1-18-08… To this day, the teaser trailer for Cloverfield is still my favorite teaser of all time. It was perfect. Fast Forward to earlier this year, and here we are again… three people in a bunker underground, something is up… 10 Cloverfield Lane?! A SEQUEL?! FINALLY? The film was more a “spiritual sequel” (thanks for that term J.J. Abrams…) than a full blown one; and in SO MANY ways, it works better this way. It arrived on Blu Ray last week, check out my review below!
 

PICTURE QUALITY:

          10 Cloverfield Lane comes to Blu Ray courtesy of Paramount Home Video, and honestly, I’ve never come across a Paramount release that I had bad things to say about. They are ALWAYS top notch in their encoding. HOWEVER, there are some noise issues with 10CL… nothing massively distracting; but 10 Cloverfield Lane was digitally photographed so there’s some noise spikes, usually in lower light areas, such as in Michelle's (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) room. Generally, however, the image is clean enough and sufficiently detailed and pretty accurately colored. Howard’s (John Goodman) mug looks especially creepy on Blu Ray, up close. Black levels hold up nicely, yielding a good, positive depth and some fine shadow detailing. Where there is CGI (no spoilers) it looks pretty even, not jarring or overly fake. It’s a great transfer, a few minor issues that the average Blu Ray watcher isn’t even going to notice or care about.
 

AUDIO QUALITY:
 
          One of the first loud scenes in the movie comes right before the title card, Michelle’s car accident. It sounds LOUD, it sounds VIOLENT, it sounds BRUTAL… it sounds great. There’s A LOT of atmospheric sounds buzzing around during the bunker, from the fluorescent lightbulbs starting up, to the creaks of the floors, and those ominous rumblings heard from above the bunker. Again, the 3rd act is where the sound really shines, but without getting too into spoiler territory, it’s tough to say much about WHAT sounds good and WHY… just watch the film and you’ll understand.
 

SPECIAL FEATURES:
 
          10 Cloverfield Lane contains a really great commentary track, and a handful of featurettes. I was more disappointed with this, though I probably shouldn’t have been, given the slim supplemental package that the original Cloverfield had too. The commentary track is with director Dan Trachtenberg (who it’s worth mentioning, is directing his FIRST feature here… WHAT a way to START!) and producer J.J. Abrams, who discuss everything about the film from inception to release. The featurettes included slightly expand on these concepts; but in some ways fall short. They are: Cloverfield Too, Bunker Mentality, Duck and Cover, Spin-Off, Kelvin Optical, Fine Tuned, & End of Story. The 7 together total about 30 minutes’ worth of coverage; disappointing indeed, but if nothing else the commentary is where the money is with special features here.
 

OVERALL:
 

          10 Cloverfield Lane is a fantastic movie in my opinion, a core human interest story of survival and the unknown. Every part of the movie excels, whether considering writing, direction, production design, or performances. There are some surprises and a few turns during the last third of the film, and I’d only be doing you a disservice if I spoiled them here, so I won’t. This film is just very broadly entertaining moviemaking. The cast of three is great, with Goodman leading the charge in one of the best performances of his career; awards buzz should DEFINITELY come his way. Paramount's Blu-ray release is very highly recommended!
 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (May the 4th Edition) (2016)


     It’s a global phenomenon, either you love it, or know someone who loves it, or know someone who knows someone who loves it. If you don’t, you probably know some really lame people.  STAR WARS IS BACK! Episode VI: The Force Awakens hit Blu Ray about a month ago, and I’ve been saving this review for TODAY… MAY THE FOURTH! I won’t even pretend that this review is impartial; I’m giving this one perfect score across the board… because it’s FUCKING STAR WARS! Check out the review below and MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

PICTURE QUALITY:
BEARD!
 
            The Force Awakens' 1080p transfer inspires from that familiar opening crawl and doesn’t stop until the credits have rolled. The yellow lettering leaps off the screen, supported by a wonderfully deep surrounding star field. Colors just keep shining and jumping for the duration of the film; The sand of Jakku is muted JUST the right amount, and the monochromatic sheen of the Starkiller base is expectedly bright, yet still flat where it needs to be. Lightsabers sparkle with brilliant reds and blues, with bolts and grains flying off in every different direction. The picture is just great. The highest of praise is deserved for this one.

AUDIO QUALITY:
BEARD!
 
     The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is where the magic of this release REALLY comes through. It’s wonderful; action scenes are filled with plenty of discrete effect, heavier ships rumble through space and shake entire rooms. TIE fighters and X-Wing fighters’ zip, sweep, and swoop around with great clarity. Sounds of battle chaos erupt through every speaker with tangible placement and precision accentuation of on- and off-screen mayhem. Laser blasts fire from all sides, and debris, ricochets, and impacts are heard exactly as they should be. This is a terrific track that, better than most, makes full use of the entire stage, and with a natural ease and precision to it.

 
SPECIAL FEATURES:
BEARD!
 
    In an earlier review, I covered the severe LACK of bonus content that was on the Steelbook versions of the Original Star Wars films. The supplement package on TFA makes up for that in SPADES and THEN SOME. There’s an absolutely incredible documentary to start off the features called: Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey. Clocking in at a bit over an hour, and split into 4 separate parts, this doc covers it ALL. It’s a blast to watch, and watch again! Coming up next are a few shorter featurettes covering other various aspects of the production that didn’t make it into the big doc: (The Story Awakens: The Table Read, Crafting Creatures, Building BB-8, Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight, ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force, John Williams: The Seventh Symphony, & Force for Change.) Finally, there’s a solid selection of deleted scenes, but nothing that was earth shattering was left on the cutting room floor. As stated above, this is an INCREDIBLY sound bonus package, and should please die-hards and casual fans alike.

OVERALL:
BEARD!!
 
            The Force Awakens was an absolute Box Office juggernaut; shattering records around the world, and as a fan, that pleases me; but as a cinephile, it’s pretty easy to see why. This is what a blockbuster should be, and that’s even more evident on Blu Ray. Incredible picture, top notch sound, and a huge assortment of bonus features to hold your interest past the film itself, this one is a can’t miss package! Go out and purchase it today!

 

*BE SURE TO FOLLOW @BEARDED_BLURAY_REVIEWS ON INSTAGRAM FOR A SPECIAL STAR WARS GIVEAWAY! MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU ALL!*
 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2016)

The 4th and final film in The Hunger Games Trilogy (yep, thanks A LOT Harry Potter!) was released on Blu Ray just a few weeks back.  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (Electric Boogaloo) hit PACKED with over 5 hours of bonus content.  How does this one compare to previous releases in the YA novel adaptation? Check out my review below!

PICTURE QUALITY:
Mutton-Chops
To be fair, the picture quality isn’t BAD by any means of the word, it’s just DARK… though that’s because half the movie takes place in poorly lit tunnels and sewers and bunkers. STILL, I’d have loved to actually be able to SEE those CGI mutts that (SPOILER ALERT) kill Finnick for more than just a split second or two. It’s hard to judge a movie accurately when you can barely see what’s going on. I digress, as the daytime scenes, however far between they may be, do look great, and some of the CGI that’s in THOSE scenes is considerably better looking than some of the stuff in previous instalments of the franchise.

AUDIO QUALITY:
BEARD!
There’s not as much boom in this instalment, due to less BIG set piece-y moments. The audio is totally fine, some of the softer conversations are still definitely audible. Once the booby traps start popping up around Katniss and her crew, you can definitely hear the Dolby ATMOS mix kick in.  There’s really not much to report here, dialogue and score are offered cleanly and clearly and with excellent clarity.
 

SPECIAL FEATURES:
BEARD!
The label on the face of the Blu Ray touts FIVE HOURS of special features ,  and it features everything from a commentary track with Director Francis Lawrence and Producer Nina Jacobson, to a SERIOUSLY in depth making of documentary, which is just about as long as the movie itself, clocking in at just under two and a half hours.  Past that, there’s ANOTHER collection of featurettes (The Hunger Games: A Photographic Journey, Cinna's Sketchbook: Secrets of the Mockingjay Armor, Panem on Display: The Hunger Games: The Exhibition) and an episode of a series called “Jet to the Set” based on the film.

OVERALL:
Mutton-Chops
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 2 limps to the finish line here; but that’s what happens when you take what is the weakest book in the series, and split it into two even weaker films. This trend seems to be waning on audiences as well, as the box office haul for this movie was CONSIDERABLY lower than its predecessors (the fatigue is hitting other YA franchises as well, as the most recent entry into The Divergent series faced the same problem.) The package is loaded with supplements, which should please hardcore fans of the movies, audio and visual merits are above average as well. I’d recommend a purchase to completists and fans of the franchise for sure; otherwise, maybe you just  rent this one.
 

The Martian (2015)

The Martian, The Golden Globe winning BEST COMEDY OF THE YEAR (yep, that happened…) landed (that’s a space pun!) on Blu Ray this past week. One of my personal favorites of 2015, the Blu Ray looks just as spectacular as it did in the theatres. This one is a great one for sure, check out my review below:

PICTURE QUALITY:

BEARD

The Martian, as evidenced by the title takes place on Mars, primarily. OK, OK, obviously it’s not Mars, but it still looks AMAZING! The finer details look pretty great in close-ups, where smaller things like droplets of water dripping from the walls of Mark Watney's makeshift greenhouse are presented with razor sharp precision.  The vibrant reds that bask Mars in that sandy hue look incredible, even on a smaller scale than the movie theatre screen.  Equally as sharp and just as well detailed is most of the film's CGI, with nearly no elements sticking out as overly fake looking. Contrast is consistent as I noted above, and black levels are crisp and dark, helping to make some of the outer space sequences, most notably the ridiculously entertaining final act, pop extremely well.

AUDIO QUALITY:

BEARD!

There’s disco music ALL over this friggin’ movie, and it sounds great! The sound effects of the foreign planet ring out with extreme clarity. Obviously I know nothing about what NASA tech should sound like, but hell if I didn’t enjoy all of the beeps and whirs of it all. I turned it down quite a bit during some of the louder sequences, and everything was still audible and sounded “right”.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

BEARD!

The label on the face of the Blu Ray boasts “over an hour of special features” and if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for EXTENSIVE, LONG, IN DEPTH features…. That said, I’m still giving The Martians selection top scores. This is a case of quality over quantity for sure. Featuring some great interviews, a few “mockumentaries” with the actors in character, production galleries, and even a pretty solid Gag Reel, there’s definitely enough on here to keep people entertained for a while!

OVERALL:

BEARD!

The Martian is a bit of a rarity, in that, yes it does have quite a few comedic moments; but also at the same time paints a wonderful story about the willpower of human beings, and the lengths an individual will go through to survive. Equally as prominent in play here, is the theme of unity, and what it would look like for the entire world to come together for a cause. All of these pieces cobbled together behind a WONDERFUL script, a FANTASTIC cast, and the ever masterful directing of Ridley Scott, and you’ve got a film worth watching, again and again. Audio and Video quality are top notch on the Blu Ray, this one comes very highly recommended, and earns itself a perfect score in my eyes!