The Fate of the Furious
The eighth film in the blockbuster Fast and Furious franchise sings the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray thanks to incredible HDR-enhanced colors, driving home just what the format is capable of (see what we did there?)
Flesh tones look astonishing on this disc, as do the HDR-enhanced explosions that litter the film. Colors also impress – witness the opening race in sunny Cuba to see how much of a difference HDR makes to this kind of film.
Another show-stopping scene involves a prison riot, with vibrant orange prison uniforms standing out even more than on the film's regular blu-ray.
The disc also presents the film in Dolby Vision as well as HDR10, which should be exciting for people who own TVs that can support the format and the added color depth that it brings. For everyone else, the disc defaults to standard HDR, which is still very impressive.
Perhaps the film's most standout sequence though, involves a huge frozen lake and a submarine. The white ice that surrounds this setting really allows the film's HDR/Dolby Vision presentation to flex some real muscle, with bright highlights getting a good workout.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (Upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English DTS:X, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), English DTS Headphone:X, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 136 minutes
Here's a film that doesn't need a blockbuster scope or enormous amounts of CGI to dazzle on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Patriots Day recounts the devastating events surrounding 2013 Boston Marathon bombing in a very naturalistic and matter-of-fact kind of way.
The film aims to put you right there during not only the explosions that changed everything, but the eventual chase to capture the assailants responsible. In this regard, the film's cinematography succeeds magnificently in capturing a sense of realism, thanks to some incredibly sharp digital photography (captured in 3.4K with a 2K digital intermediate) and exceptionally lifelike HDR color grading.
Skintones are as close to reality as I've seen from any film on the 4K Ultra HD format. Lines and pores are clearly visible, and make it even easier to read the emotions displayed on the characters' faces.
Later in the film, during an extended night-time firefight in suburbia, the disc jumps to another level of clarity entirely. Shadow detail gets a huge boost, making it easier to follow the action in what would normally be an underlit setting.
In fact, we'd go as far as to say that Patriots Day acts as a showcase for what HDR can bring to a films lighting and color palette, with fire taking on an especially important role. Surprising as it may be, this is a demo-worthy disc.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (Upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English DTS:X, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), English DTS Headphone:X, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 133 minutes
John Wick: Chapter 2
Immediately exhibiting the benefits of increased resolution and the wider color gamut afforded by the inclusion of HDR in its presentation, John Wick: Chapter 2 comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders with a visually-sensational night-time chase through Manhattan (actually Montreal).
Surrounded by lights and colorful billboards, the disc's HDR-enhanced contrast allows viewers to peer into the darkness and clearly see objects and details that they'd normally normally miss in regular high definition. Witness, for instance, the film's show-stopping shootout inside the catacombs in Rome – the characters are enveloped in darkness and yet we can clearly see everything that's going on thanks to some terrific lighting and high-dynamic-range magic.
Immediately prior to that scene, a night-time concerto amongst the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome demonstrates incredible highlights, with red and blue LED lights surrounding the stage as spotlights swirl around in all directions.
The incredible visuals just keep on coming with this release. We have a shootout in a museum where vibrant red blood splatters over a number of statues, a neon-enhanced 'hall of mirrors' battle inspired by Enter the Dragon, fight scenes taking place in a dark and vivid underground metro, and the list goes on and on. One of the most dynamic releases on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format, this is absolutely the best way to experience John Wick: Chapter 2.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (Upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 122 minutes
Though sourced from a 2K digital intermediate, Hacksaw Ridge arrives on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a gloriously-detailed transfer that's bolstered by a terrific HDR color gamut.
In its first half, the film radiates with natural-looking light and the kind of clear cinematography that only digital cameras can achieve. Though the disc's increased resolution makes it easy to spot green screen work on a couple of occasions, the added clarity that's made possible by the Ultra HD format far outweighs these minor infractions.
Later, the added detail provided by the format's higher resolution, as well as the wider color gamut it offers, brings a shocking level of detail and an added feeling of authenticity to the film's many gruesome war scenes. If you find intense scenes involving bloody viscera and shredded appendages hard to stomach, you're going to have an even harder time experiencing them on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Elsewhere, high-dynamic-range allows the film's cinematography to really shine, showing very realistic color and light reproduction, especially in dark scenes. At times, Hacksaw Ridge's war scenes forego realistic color palettes in favour of a stylised, almost monochromatic look. Here, HDR allows you to really notice the different shades at work, rather than simply looking dull and grey. These scenes are also punctuated by a barrage of explosions, juxtaposing bright bursts of color over a bleak battlefield.
Top this off with a dynamic and concussive Dolby Atmos audio track, and what you have in Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best releases on the format.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (Upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39: 1, Runtime: 131 minutes
The Neon Demon
One of the few 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles that doesn't come with HDR enhancements, Nicolas Winding Refn's horror thriller The Neon Demon looks utterly glorious on the format nonetheless. If you want to get your hands on the film in razor-sharp 2160p, you'll have to import this English-friendly German release, which includes all the special features found on the regular Blu-ray in the US and UK – don't you just love how all 4K UHD discs are region free?
With regards to the disc's lack of HDR, you may be surprised to learn that the famously-visual director is actually quite color blind. An inability to see midtones has led Refn to favour high contrast and extreme colors throughout his career, as evidenced by the films Drive and Only God Forgives. Because of this, it's probably safe to assume that he wouldn't get much out of the high-dynamic-range experience.
Sourced from a 4K master (but shot at 3.4K), The Neon Demon looks incredible on Ultra HD Blu-ray, with its high resolution offering a noticeable uptick in detail over the 1080p version included in this package.
Aside from its 4K resolution, deep blacks and scorchingly vibrant colors are the big selling point here – though we were unable to test the film on an OLED television, the promise of individually-lit pixels beaming and pulsing out of the pitch black darkness of certain scenes has us giddy at the possibilities on hand.
Essentially a feature-length exercise in immense style and cinematography, it would be hard to imagine a film more suited to the 4K Ultra HD format.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1, German DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1, Runtime: 118 minutes
Based on the devastating true story of an enormous oil rig disaster that occurred in 2010, often cited as one of the largest man-made disasters in history, it is perhaps in bad taste to describe Deepwater Horizon as a tremendously visceral and visually spectacular film, given the lives that were lost on that fateful day. Regardless, we must still call 'em like we see 'em, and Deepwater Horizon looks incredible on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Lone Survivor) brings his tough and gritty film to the format with exceptional results. Though the film was finished on a 2K digital intermediate, Deepwater Horizon delivers strong detail and impressive dynamics, with its HDR enhanced presentation offering great depth and color reproduction.
Witness, for instance, the fantastic textures in the many scenes featuring actors smeared in oil and covered in dust and debris. Likewise, the film's many explosions burst with astonishing clarity thanks to the format's higher dynamic range. Fire is so bright that you can almost feel the heat emanating from your screen.
Visuals aside, Deepwater Horizon's audio presentation also receives top marks, with a Dolby Atmos presentation that will shake your living room once those aforementioned explosions start. The film's audio dynamics will bounce around your room, placing you right in the action. Helicopters flying overhead are particularly impressive here, making Deepwater Horizon a reference quality disc in both video and audio categories.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 107 minutes
Providing even more proof that you don't need a 4K master to get exceptional 4K UHD Blu-ray results, the entertaining shark attack movie The Shallows has emerged on the format with an absolutely sublime audio and video presentation.
Upscaled from a 2K master, The Shallows looks astonishingly crisp, with the film's digital photography lending immense clarity to the film's many surfing scenes. Witness, for instance, star Blake Lively's resting 'beachface', which reveals detailed pores, fine lines and even the salty texture of someone who's spent all day swimming in the ocean and soaking in sun rays. Unsurprisingly, the waves look spectacular, too.
Also complementing The Shallows' incredible visual presentation is an amazing Dolby Atmos track which faithfully reproduces the film's clever sound design. It's a muscular track that really puts you in the action, handling all of the film's audio dynamics with ease. Scenes where Lively is submerged make your living room feel like it's underwater, and one particular moment where an underwater GoPro shot breaks through the surface makes your ears pop like the real thing.
Occasionally, the added resolution of the disc makes some of the film's shark attack scenes look a little fake, but overall The Shallows is one of the best looking and sounding releases that the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format has produced. Highly recommended.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Czech Dolby Digital 5.1, French (Canada) Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 86 minutes
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road's 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release brings with it some enormous expectations, as the film is one of the more visually dazzling action blockbusters in recent memory. Thankfully, Fury Road absolutely delivers, despite having been upscaled from a 2K digital intermediate. This might seem like a bummer, but that's how the film was presented in theatres, and it looked pretty freakin' good there, didn't it?
With its colors undergoing a re-grading process in HDR, Fury Road looks more sensational than ever in Ultra HD. The film's many explosions now burn with added intensity, and improved contrast and increased resolution give the film a more painterly appearance, especially in the film's huge storm sequence.
Some might argue that this makes Mad Max: Fury Road's CGI stand out more, I believe it only adds to the film's artistic quality. Elsewhere, you'll find more realistic skin tones and textures, brilliant lighting, richer landscapes and shinier chrome. Mad Max: Fury Road's Ultra HD release is definitely worth the upgrade for fans, though we'd love to see what the added resolution of 4K and HDR could do with the film's new Black and Chrome version.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, German Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.40:1, Runtime: 120 minutes
As close to a flawless 4K presentation as the format has so far produced, The Revenant looks utterly fantastic on Ultra HD Blu-ray. Shot digitally at resolutions of up to 6.5K (and finished on a 4K digital intermediate) using only natural light sources, The Revenant offers a very natural-looking presentation, giving the audience a more authentic idea of what it must feel like to be in the freezing wilderness alongside Leo and Co.
Compare the The Revenant's 4K disc to the regular Blu-ray packaged with it, and you'll notice that the discs provide quite different presentations of the film. This is because director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki re-graded the entire film in HDR exclusively for this UHD release. By comparison, the regular 1080p Blu-ray looks much cooler, with more dominant blues and greys taking centre stage. Meanwhile, the 4K disc offers more naturalistic skin tones and a warmer overall palette, making the film's many icy landscapes appear whiter and more true to life.
Speaking of landscapes, the added resolution and contrast of The Revenant's 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray makes them appear more grand and breathtaking, offering more fine detail and depth. Improved bloom lighting also lets the sun shine without bleeding into obvious and distracting shade transitions. A reference disc if ever there was one, The Revenant belongs in everyone's 4K collection.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (from 4K master), Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1, Italian DTS 5.1, German DTS 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 156 minutes
Warcraft: The Beginning
Though you'd expect HDR to make films more vibrant and colorful, Warcraft's presentation has taken a more subtle approach to the film's coloring. Less garish than its regular Blu-ray counterpart, Warcraft's Ultra HD presentation offers more naturalistic colors, especially when it comes to orc skin tones. That's not to say that this presentation is muted in any way – Fel magic looks spectacularly vivid and bright, giving the film a suitably other-worldly and fantastical appearance.
As expected, the real show-stoppers here are the orcs, lovingly realised through terrific motion-capture performances and CGI wizardry (as opposed to the other kind of wizardry seen in the film itself). Lead orc Durotan's facial expressions are more detailed and realistic, thanks to the disc's bumped-up resolution. Getting to actually see fine lines, wrinkles and textures in these characters' faces make them much more believable (though the illusion is still broken whenever they're standing next to the film's human characters). Other CGI creations, like the Gryphon Lothar rides during the film's climax, or the kingdom of Azeroth itself, exhibit an exceptionally high level of detail.
While it is another example of an upscaled film sourced from a 2K digital intermediate, Warcraft's 4K presentation nonetheless offers enhanced clarity, improved contrast and naturalistic tones. This Ultra HD release is definitely the best way to watch Warcraft: The Beginning in 2D.
Technical specs: Codec: HEVC / H.265, Resolution: 2160p (upscaled from 2K master), Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Aspect ratio: 2.39:1, Runtime: 123 minutes