Author: Robert Greenberger

REVIEW: Shrek 20th Anniversary Edition

The best thing about Shrek when it debuted 20 (yikes!) years ago was that it brought a fresh take on traditional fairy tales and got a generation of children to understand that there were more ways to tell these classic stories than the Disney way. The humor here was contemporary and original while still respecting the lessons these were designed to convey.

Now, celebrating the 20th anniversary of its release, Universal Home Entertainment has spruced up the original film for its 4k Ultra HD debut. It comes in a combo pack with the Blu-ray disc and Digital HD code.

It’s still funny, with Mike Meyers affecting a fine Scottish accent for the title character, paired with Eddie Murphy’s memorable Donkey along with Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad), and Vincent Cassel as Monsieur Hood. To protect the swamp home of the ogre and its other denizens, Shrek takes on the evil Lord, rescues the princess, and a fine time is had by all. The music sells itself and there are funny moments throughout, still making me laugh.

While the CGI animation hasn’t aged as well as some other productions, Shrek is still good to watch and Universal gets credit for cleaning it up as best it could for both the 4K and Blu-ray discs. The color balance is nicely improved along with the depth of field.

The DTS:X Master Audio soundtrack is perhaps stronger, so you can enjoy the music, dialogue, and sound effects.

Given the film’s smash success, it spawned several sequels (none yet in 4K) in addition to television shorts, music videos, and related fun. Much of it can be found on the two Blu-rays discs in the set. There is actually no new content produced for the anniversary edition, just collecting previously released material. You can decide for yourself if the upgrade in the film itself is worth the investment.

On the 4K Ultra HD disc, you can find several of the original Blu-ray features:

  • Shrek’s Interactive Journey: 1
  • Spotlight on Donkey (11:37).
  • Secrets of Shrek (3:50):
  • Deleted Scenes (8:01).
  • Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party (2:51).
  • Baha Men “Best Years of Our Lives” (3:08).
  • Smash Mouth “I’m a Believer” (1080p, 3:15).
  • Shrek The Musical: “What’s Up, Duloc?” (3:56).
  • Audio Commentary: Directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and Producer Aron Warner.

On Blu-ray disc 1:

  • The Animators’ Corner
  • Shrek’s Interactive Journey
  • Spotlight on Donkey (11:38)
  • Secrets of Shrek (3:52)
  • Deleted Scenes (8:01).
  • Audio Commentary: Directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and Producer Aron Warner.
  • Shrek, Rattle & Roll:
    • Swamp Karaoke Dance Party (2:53),
    • Baha Men “Best Years of Our Lives” (3:08)
    • Smash Mouth “I’m a Believer” (3:15)
    • Shrek The Musical: “What’s Up, Duloc?” (3:57)
    • DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox (1080p)

On Blu-ray disc 2:

  • Swamp Karaoke Party (2:51)
  • Far Far Away Idol (9:00)
  • Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos (13:06)
  • Shrek’s Halloween Favorites:
    • The Ghost of Lord Farquaad (12:34)
    • Scared Shrekless (25:30)
    • Thriller Night (6:08)
    • The Pig Who Cried Werewolf (6:49)
  • Shrek’s Holiday Favorites:
    • Shrek the Halls (28:02)
    • Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular (6:39)
    • Shrek’s Yule Log (30:19)
  • The Adventures of Puss In Boots:
    • Hidden (23:04)
    • Sphinx (23:04)
    • Brothers (23:04)
    • Dutchess (23:04)
    • Adventure (23:02):

REVIEW: Justice Society: World War II

Comic fandom has crossed so thoroughly into the mainstream, that mass media is proving elastic enough to encompass what was previously considered the obscure. Case in point, the just-released Justice Society: World War II direct-to-video film. Here is a story focused on the first comic book team that finally gets the spotlight after making cameos and guest appearances on animated and live-action television productions dating back to Smallville.

I personally love the JSA and was thrilled they were getting a film of their own. Unfortunately, the finished product is not the JSA we know, nor is it a particularly good piece of storytelling. Producers Butch Lukic and Jim Krieg apparently started this project as a Wonder Woman in WW II story that morphed and was appended to the parallel worlds concept.

We start on what we presume is the DCAU world as Flash (Matt Bomer) comes to aid Superman (Darren Criss) but clearly, it’s not our familiar world because there is no JLA. As the Scarlet Speedster tries to save Superman from a kryptonite missile fired by Brainiac , he winds up piercing the dimension veil to find himself not only on a parallel world but back in time.

He arrives in Europe as Hawkman (Omid Abtahi), Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru), Hourman (Matthew Mercer), and Flash (Armen Taylor), follow Wonder Woman’s (Stana Katic) lead. The initial battle sequence shows exactly why super-heroes didn’t directly engage against the Axis forces. The war would end in days not years.

Along the way, the modern-day Flash is slow to figure things out and the others view him askance until his older counterpart offers up the multiple worlds theory and then he’s one of them. Tagging along is a war correspondent, nicknamed Shakespeare, but it is actually Clark Kent, but a man whose adoptive parents, the Kents, died young and he was raised in an orphanage with a jaundiced view of using his powers for a humanity that has not been kind to him.

And of course, there’s Steve Trevor (Chris Diamantopoulos), the audience’s human connection to the story. Here, he’s accomplished and heroic, but hopelessly devoted to Wonder Woman, proposing to her daily. He’s probably the best thing in the film.

As we shift into the second half of the film, the real threat is presented in the form of The Advisor (Geoffrey Arend), who has taken mental control of that world’s Aquaman (Liam McIntyre). He’s out to conquer all, which is a brutal way to end the global conflict. At least it’s a threat worthy of super-heroes. So, as we build to the climax, there’s death, destruction, and lots of predictable moments.

Along the way, the heroes are never given a chance to be developed as characters. Audiences are left wondering as to the cherry-picked nature of the team, why this Canary has the sonic scream, why does Jay Garrick know about the Speed Force but Barry, who comes across as a dim bulb, does not. Of all the JSA characters present, the one receiving the worst treatment was Doctor Fate (Keith Ferguson).

Director Jeff Wamester and screenwriters Meghan Fitzmartin & Jeremy Adams could have done so much more with the source material, but what is presented here is soulless and unsurprising. The animation looks more limited than usual, which takes away from the enjoyment.

The 1.78:1 high-definition film looks sharp with good colors in what is a generally muted palette, bringing the horrors of war nicely to life. The video is nicely complemented by the audio.

Thankfully, the Combo Pack (4K, Blu-ray, Digital), comes with the far superior DC Showcase: Kamandi (18:03), which faithfully adapts Jack Kirby’s adventure series. Visually, the Kirby designs come to life and the story feels like Earth After the Great Disaster.

The director, producers, and screenwriters sit around congratulating themselves in Adventures in Storytelling (30:04), where they explain their choices and touch on the ideas they brought to the production, but it didn’t translate from idea to execution anywhere near as well as they think.

We also have Sneak Peek: Batman: The Long Halloween Part 1 (10:29) which is being touted as being the most faithful adaptation from a comic story. It certainly looks great with strong visuals and an interesting voice cast including the late Naya Rivera as Catwoman.

Finally, only available on disc is the From the DC Vault: Justice League: “Legends, Part One” and “Legends, Part Two”.

REVIEW: Batman: Soul of the Dragon

REVIEW: Batman: Soul of the Dragon

BATMAN: SOUL OF THE DRAGON animated film dedicated to comic creator Denny O’NeilBatman was enjoying a renaissance as the 1970s dawned. Freed from its ties to the ABC series, editor Julius Schwartz worked with writers Frank Robins and Denny O’Neil on rejuvenating the Darknight Detective, returning him closer to his pulp-roots.

In short order, O’Neil would rise to become the premier Batman scribe of the era to be followed by a notable stretch as his editor from 1986 through the early 2000s. His impact is immeasurable. On the side, though, he aspired to be a prose writer as well and among his works from that period was a collaboration with cartoonist Jim Berry on the 1974 novel Kung Fu Master, Richard Dragon: Dragon’s Fists (1974) under the pseudonym “Jim Dennis.”

As the Martial Arts craze was beginning its descent, DC Comics optioned the novel and had O’Neil write and edit the adaptation as Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter. There, he introduced readers to Dragon, Ben Turner, O-Sensei, and most importantly, Lady Shiva.

All of the above explains why the latest DCAU release, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, is as much a celebration of that bygone era as it is a tribute to O’Neil. In this original story, now available on disc from Warner Home Entertainment, we have a reality where Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli), training to become a hero, spends time in Nada Parbat. There, under O-Sensei’s (James Hong) guidance, he works alongside Dragon (Mark Dacascos), Turner (Michael Jai White), Shiva (Kelly Hu), Jade (Jamie Chung), and Rip Jagger (Chris Cox).

Each is there for a different reason, and while they train together, they’re not precisely close allies. Jagger betrays them all when he attempts to open the gates O-Sensei has been guarding, killing Jade in the process. The demon Nāga is nearly freed, and four of his servants escape until the O-Sensei sacrifices himself.

In time, each goes their way, with Wayne returning to Gotham City and donning the cape and cowl as Batman. When Dragon, now a spy, turns up in his penthouse, we discover that ancient evils are being stirred up, so it’s time to get the gang back together. Jeffrey Burr (Josh Keaton) is now the leader of the Kobra cult, determined to obtain the Soul Breaker from Shiva and free Nāga.

All the tropes from the martial arts films of the era are brought into play, from the music to the fight sequences, to the threat itself. Dragon here is redesigned from Caucasian to a stand-in for Bruce Lee, the clear master of the era. The film is a joy to watch, the action swift but not without letting the characters have their moments. Screenwriter Jeremy Adams does a superb job with this homage.

In the Batman: Raw Groove featurette, producer Bruce Timm discusses the notes from DC that their early drafts were too much Bruce Wayne and not enough Batman. That complaint still applies to the finished product. As he fights in costume, he stands out as an anomaly. Had Turner donned the Bronze Tiger mask, things might have felt more even-handed. Still, it’s just a quibble.

The 4k Ultra HD 2160p is pristine, capturing the colors and shades perfectly. The Blu-ray companion disc in the Combo Pack is equally good at retaining the palette and details. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio is fine, if unexceptional.

There is just one original featurette here, but it packs some great material. Batman: Raw Groove (30:30) uses a pair of historians — Cal Lutheran history professor Dr. Michaela Crawford Reaves—to tee-up the context of the era, the rise of action films, and connecting the Blaxploitation and Martial Arts genres in ways I hadn’t previously considered. There is a good assortment of film clips from the Warner catalog to illustrate the points (although it should be noted, nary a clip of Lee, the father of it all, is present). Additional detail comes from Martial Arts History Museum President Michael Matsuda before filmmakers Timm, Jim Krieg, and others chime in.

Producer Jim Krieg’s Far Out Highlights (18:03) shows him at his 70s cheesiest, giving a far more personal perspective on the era and the resulting tribute film.

Sneak Peek – Justice Society: World War II (8:07) shows Krieg making his Walter Winchell impression as he introduces audiences to the first animated feature to spotlight the first team of heroes, apparently using the Silver Age Flash as the audience’s conduit to these bygone heroes. It looks to be fun.

Rounding out the Blu-ray disc is From the DC Vault (44:41) – Batman: The Animated Series: “Day of the Samurai” and “Night of the Ninja.”

REVIEW: Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas

REVIEW: Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas
By Sam Maggs and Kendra Wells
160 pages, Amulet Books, $12.99/$21.99

Sam Maggs has carved out a fine career writing imaginative young adult fiction and graphic novels. Here, she teams with artist Kendra Wells to tackle the two best known female pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. They are sailing the high seas along with Calico Jack and having a grand old time.

There’s a four-page text section discussing the historic facts behind the pirates and its makes far more interesting reading than the simplified tale presented ahead of it.

Being a pirate wasn’t easy and it was harder for women. In both cases, Bonny and Read had to discuss themselves as men to fit in, with all the complications attendant to that. At the time, Bonny had left her husband and married Jack, only to fall for Read, thinking she was a he. After that, speculation remains whether or not there was bisexual hanky-panky going on.

Instead, we get a 16 year Bonny, plucky as all get out, who captains her own ship and goes on adventures with Jack and later meets Read. The British navy are seen as a mere impediment, a distraction from their adventuring.

The plot has many a side trip and we get contemporary social outrage over injustices that were normal life of the day, so you’re constantly taken out of the story.

The characterizations are 21st century, dialogue complete with emojis, and everything sanitized for your reading pleasure. This commits the same sin as Cleopatra in Space does, using the names for identification but none of the actual person.

Wells’ art is also too simplified so it’s hard to tell teens from adults. There’s too much Manga to the faces and none of the grit and texture of life aboard a pirate ship. That said, the color is nice and many of the pages are well designed.

While fanciful and colorful, this is a misfire on many levels and can’t be recommended.

REVIEW: Love and Monsters

REVIEW: Love and Monsters

2020 felt like a disaster movie made real, as we hunkered down from the pandemic, watched racial strife and political shenanigans raise the stakes, all culminating in a universal desire to either end the year quickly or calla do-over. Set against the claustrophobia of being trapped at home, Paramount Home Entertainment gave us Love and Monsters, featuring the remaining five percent of humanity, living underground because the surface was no longer safe.

Good timing. On the other hand, the film has been in development since 2012 and was scheduled for release right as the world shifted on its existential axis. Paramount decided to push it out in the few theaters open and then make it available for streaming or, as of tomorrow, on disc.

Most apocalyptic films are dour and depressing, aimed at adults, or filled with adolescent wunderkinder rising against adversity, aimed at tweens and teens. This film, though, might be the apocalyptic film for the whole family.

Meet Joel (Dylan O’Brien), one of the survivors, but not good enough to hunt and gather, but is relegated to being the cook, a necessary but unglamorous role. He misses his Aimee (Jessica Henwick), his girlfriend, while everyone else in his group has paired up. Chatting by radio just isn’t working for him. Miserable and in love, he decides to brave the elements and go in search of her.

Now, the world changed after we obliterated an oncoming asteroid, without factoring in how the fallout would alter the ecology. Animals, fish, birds, and insects all grew to mammoth proportions and mankind was no longer atop the food chain. Instead, they fell to the bottom as their ranks were depleted by the hungry hungry wildlife.

So, it’s no fun, but thankfully Joel encounters Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), who guide him. Nothing is as it appears from here on out and while predictable in places, it’s also heartwarming and fun. The overall story is fine, not demanding too much of its audiences, which we definitely could use.

The film is available in the usual assortments including the $k Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital HD combo pack. The 1080p transfer is excellent and there is enough of an improvement in the 2160 Dolby Vision edition to appreciate the subtleties that are brought out. The colorful world benefits from the Ultra HD. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack complements it nicely.

There is a perfunctory assortment of extras on the Blu-ray disc including seven deleted scenes (11:50), Bottom of the Food Chain: The Cast of Love and Monsters (7:43), and It’s a Monster’s World: Creating a Post-Apocalyptic Landscape (7:04).

REVIEW: Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2

REVIEW: Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2

The names of the legendary animators of the 30s and 40s have faded with time, except to the connoisseurs and collectors, which is a shame. Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, and Tex Avery should be as well known as respected as is Walt Disney, though these days, the latter is better known as an entrepreneur than an animator.

This is why we should love and support Warner Archive, for gathering the forgotten but still vital cartoons of the past and making them available in contemporary forms, which brings me to the just-released Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2. One a single disc we have 21 cartoons to enjoy, most of which hold up extremely well.

Avery, to those who recognize the name, certainly know him for his work on Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and Bugs Bunny. But, after he moved to MGM, he continued to offer up side-splitting entertainment with characters such as the sexy Little Red Riding Hood and her leering adversary the Southern Wolf (voiced by Daws Butler).

Here, he worked with writers Heck Allen and Rich Hogan and their efforts hold up. Droopy Dog and Spike are also represented here. Standouts include “Cuckoo Clock”, “Magical Maestro”, “One Cab’s Family”, “The Cat That Hated People”, and “The First Bad Man”. Given changing social mores, the disc comes with a disclaimer that the disc is intended for Adult Collectors and may not be suitable for children to which I say, phooey.

The digital transfer is far from perfect and may disappoint those used to pristine high def reproductions of work. Sadly, a fire in the 1960s destroyed many negatives, limiting what could be used to make these discs and future ones. Clearly, the source material was in rougher shape and the best efforts were no doubt taken. That said, the color saturation is fine and screens well on a television screen. As I understand it, the source material was varied to generate the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, but they do a nice job so audiophiles may be the only ones troubled.

Nicely, there is a nearly hour-long Tex Avery: King of Cartoons documentary.

List of Shorts:
1. Little Rural Riding Hood
2. The Cuckoo Clock
3. Magical Maestro
4. One Cab’s Family
5. Cat That Hated People
6. Doggone Tired
7. The Flea Circus
8. Field And Scream
9. The First Bad Man
10. Out Foxed
11. Droopy’s Double Trouble
12. Three Little Pups
13. Dragalong Droopy
14. Homesteader Droopy
15. Dixieland Droopy
16. Counterfeit Cat
17. Ventriloquist Cat
18. House Of Tomorrow
19. Car Of Tomorrow
20. Tv Of Tomorrow
21. Farm Of Tomorrow

Auto Draft

REVIEW: Total Recall

The 1980s were littered with small production companies, many of which had one or two notable successes and a lot of schlock. As the audience tastes changed, and the blockbuster became ever more important, these houses – Golan-Globus, Cannon, Avco Embassy, and of course, Carolco. That latter studio had one surprise smash hit, First Blood, with Sylvester Stallone. They were a company on the rise.

During all of this, a screenplay adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember it for you Wholesale” from Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett had been floating from studio to studio. It proved a tough sell and a tough story to crack but Dino DeLaurentis seemed game until his Dune sunk in the sand.

By then, Arnold Schwarzenegger was aware of the project and wanted to be the star and when Dino let go, he convinced Carolco to buy it. Arnold’s deal was a big paycheck but more importantly, he got to pick producer, screenwriters, and director. It was he who picked Paul Verhoeven to come aboard.

The story features a construction worker, Schwarzenegger, who keeps dreaming of Mars. He visits Rekall, which can implant false memories for thrill-seekers, but things go awry when it triggers his suppressed memories of being a secret agent on Mars. He heads back there and gets caught up in the revolution against the corrupt governor Cohaagen (Ronny Cox). Things blow up, the special effects were pretty impressive, and the cast included Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Marc Alaimo, and, the go to man, Michael Ironside.

What resulted was the box office hit Total Recall, one of the finer science fiction films from the 1990s. It has held up well, withstood bad sequels, and still pops up on cable. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the film is being released this week in 4K Ultra HD. In fact, it comes from Lionsgate Home Entertainment in a three disc set, including one Blu-ray disc for the film and some special features, and one just filled with special features. And yes, a Digital HD code is included.

This package easily eclipses the 2012 Blu-ray that Verhoeven himself was involved with all-around. The color saturation on both the 2160 and 1080 transfers are superior with terrific resolution. It’s sharp but not perfect with some compressions issues here or there, but nothing that will spoil the home viewing experience.

The discs come with Dolby Atmos soundtracks which complement the video just fine. You certainly will gain new appreciation for the Jerry Goldsmith score here.

As for the special features, the 4K comes with the Audio Commentary from Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven. Several 1080p features on the same disc include the all-new and worth watching Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood (59:22), Open Your Mind – Scoring Total Recall (21:24), and Dreamers Within the Dream: Developing Total Recall (8:26), spotlighting artist Ron Miller.

On the film’s Blu-ray disc, you also get the Audio Commentary, Open Your Mind – Scoring Total Recall, and Dreamers Within the Dream: Developing Total Recall.

The second Blu-ray offers up Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood, Total Recall: The Special Effects (23:15), Making Of (8:03), Imagining Total Recall” Featurette (30:12), and the Trailer (1:30).

REVIEW: The Lost Adventures of James Bond

REVIEW: The Lost Adventures of James Bond

The Lost Adventures of James Bond
By Mark Edlitz
315 pages, $29.95 (print)/$9.99, (eBook)

It sometimes feels like that for every James Bond film made, there are several others that never get before the cameras. We hear of actors, writers, and directors coming and going, which sometimes explains the long gap between films. And with an unexpected delay for No Time to Die (please open in 2021), we could use a dose of 007.

Mark Edlitz delivers with his latest deep dive into pop culture. His self-published The Lost Adventures of James Bond covers the films, novels, comic books, and other media complete with fresh interviews with many who were actively developing stories we’ll never see.

While I knew comics writer Cary Bates wrote an unsolicited treatment, which he sold, I had no idea John Landis, fresh off Schlock, was invited by Bond impresario Cubby Broccoli to write a screenplay for Roger Moore. (It’s worth reading just for his anecdote about Queen Elizabeth.) Nor was I aware that there was active development of at least three different Bond films for Timothy Dalton, who lasted a mere two outings.

We learn how times change, audience tastes change, and sometimes it was hard for Eon Productions to keep up. Or the things that excited some writers didn’t excite Eon. And yet, elements from many an unused story found their way into other productions throughout the years, so little went to waste.

With his exhaustive research, he has unearthed details on the films, but also does a deep dive into the James Bond Junior television series, covering almost every angle. Even television commercials get their due.

While many interviewed here never got to see their ideas fully realized, they almost all give credit to Richard Maibaum, the screenwriter who set the cinematic template in the 1960s, going on to pen a dozen missions. Apparently, he wrote a series of essays about Bond, a rare book I’d like to find and read.

His appendixes include a comprehensive catalog of everyone to portray the secret agent in all media, far more than you would realize.  There’s also a guide to all the stories in print and on film. Finally, the treatments to the unproduced A Silent Armageddon and “A Deadly Prodigal” are presented in their entirety.

Edlitz supplements his interviews and narrative with fine illustrations from Pat Carbajal along with imagery from international comic books and comic strips through the years.

This is a worthy addition to anyone’s Bond library and certainly alongside Edlitz’s earlier The Many Lives of James Bond.

REVIEW:

REVIEW: Westworld: Season Three: The New World

HBO’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Westworld is an interesting barometer of geekdom’s temperature. The first season arrived and it was a cause celebre, given its rich, sprawling cast, topical questions about the role of AI in our lives, and plenty of violence and nudity.

The second season clearly went off the rails and people questioned what was going on even as those who stuck around were intrigued by the glimpses into the other worlds vacationers could visit.

Through it all, there was Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood), the android who went beyond her programming and chose to control her destiny. In the third season, things went back on the right track as you can see for yourself in the just-released Westworld: Season Three: The New World from Warner Home Entertainment.

Delores escaped the park at the end of last season and we see “our” world through her eyes which was an interesting bit of writing. We also meet Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul), a former soldier turned petty criminal whose story takes its time but ultimately dovetails with Delores’. Similarly, the story of Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) and Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel) takes its time and shows other aspects of this world and its inhabitants.

Where Delores’ “reawakenings” led to her sentience, Maeve’s takes us in another other direction and explores her in a World War II Italy Warworld reality, which brings her to Serac.

Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and William (Ed Harris) make the odd couple of sorts in the third major arc of the ten-episode season. Here, they struggle with determining reality versus simulation, an interesting notion as more people in the real world plug into various forms of artificial reality (Ready Player One anyone?).

The connector to all of this is Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), who is never less than interesting to watch.

The good ideas and strong performances more than make up for the uneven writing across the season. It’ll be back and there’s more than enough here to entice us to come back for another E-ticket ride.

The box set comes with both 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray editions along with a Digital HD code. The 2160p transfer in 1.78:1 is excellent. The Dolby Vision nicely punches up the blacks and darker details from the traditional film.

The 1080p transfer is equally strong which helps tremendously. Both benefit from the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and Dolby Atmos so this makes for an excellent home video experience.

Much of the Special Features, scattered across the Blu-ray discs, are drawn from the existing HBO extras, starting with Escape from Westworld (1:53), which introduces viewers to the setup. Disc one also features Creating Westworld: Parce Domine (6:36); The Winter Line (7:18); The Absence of Field (6:05); and Exploring Warworld (3:56).

Disc Two offers up Creating Westworld‘s Reality:  Genre (3:54) and Decoherence (4:48). Disc Three features We Live in a Technocracy (13:44) spotlights producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy; A Vision for the Future (14:09); RICO: Crime and the Gig Economy (7:07); Westworld on Location (11:20); and Welcome to Westworld: Evan Rachel Wood and Aaron Paul – Analysis (3:46), Evan Rachel Wood and Aaron Paul – Who Said It? (3:43), Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson – Analysis (3:22), Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson – Who Said It? (2:57); Creating Westworld‘s Reality: Passed Pawn (4:09) and Crisis Theory (9:03).

REVIEW:

REVIEW: Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy

Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis turned a high concept into a charming, enduring film in Back to the Future. It spawned two uneven sequels (and I am so glad Gale see s no reason for a fourth installment) with time-hopping DeLorean and the character of Doc Brown melding into the pop culture zeitgeist.

The films, certainly the first one, deserve to be seen by all, including the current generation to whom the 1950s and 1980s are equally ancient.

Thankfully, Universal Home Entertainment agrees and we have been treated to DVDs, and Blu-rays ever since. Out this week, in time for everyone’s holiday shopping, comes Back to the Future: The Ultimate Trilogy as the films receive the Ultra HD treatment. In a lovely embossed slipbox, you get six discs with carryover content from the 2010 and 2015 editions.

Doc Brown has invented a time machine and with Marty on hand, they travel back to 1955, inadvertently keeping Marty’s parents from meeting. As time threatens to unravel, he has to befriend them both, avoid his mom’s icky romantic advances, and get them to fall in love while dealing with the social mores of a conservative era that, like time, is slowly starting to come part. It took televisions stars Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox and turned them into movie stars. The rest of the casting was spot on which helped turn the first film into a blockbuster.

So of course, we had a sequel, going forward in time to see further ripples that are more unpleasant than one would hope for. Here. Elisabeth Shue comes along for the rider as Marty’s girlfriend and future wife (a concept which frightens here at first). And then, for the final installment, they head backwards, to a simple, dustier time: The Wild West. This is the less creatively interesting one but saved thanks to the romance between Doc Brown and Mary Steenburgen, who is good in everything.

The new scans are pristine and wonderful with Dolby Vision color correction, making shadows deeper and the 1950s a technicolor delight. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack perfectly captures the sound effects, but more important, the vital, vibrant rock and roll that was gaining popularity during the earlier era of the first film. Thankfully, the work on the sequels is equal or even better than the original.

There’s a bonus seventh disc with fresh new supplemental content along with material from the 30th anniversary edition. Among the new features is the brief The Hollywood Museum Goes Back to the Future (10:17), as Museum President Donelle Dadigan walks us through their BTTF exhibit. There’s also Back to the Future: The Musical Behind the Scenes, a three part feature on the musical version.

A nice addition is An Alternate Future: Lost Audition Tapes (3:45 focusing on those who didn’t win the familiar roles. These include potential Biffs Billy Zane and Peter DeLuise; possible Marty McFlys C. Thomas Howell, Jon Cryer, and Ben Stiller as Marty McFly; with Kyra Sedgwick as Jennifer Parker.

Finally, there’s Could You Survive the Movies? Back to the Future (19:47): A YouTube video which reality tests some of the physical humor from the films.