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I hear you Phantom!

I've said before that I can only imagine how much time and energy is involved in doing an update, to say nothing about starting a new thread exclusively for UHD Blu-rays. Again, I feel bad that I too don't have the TIME to even consider "taking over your duties." For now, everyone must be content with "things as they are" until Phantom has the time to do an update or until someone is willing to assume his job. Until either of these occur, we are still seeing "reviews of Blu-rays" and that's something to appreciate.
 

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Well, until theaters open back up on a wide basis and releases subsequently make their way to UHD and baring a massive dump of catalog UHD releases, I'm about caught up on building and reviewing my UHD library. My money lately has been going to Criterion and Kino Lorber. I helped out Phantom with updates to tier 1.0 and 1.25 and can confirm it's a labor of love for sure.

Kino Lorber puts out a lot of films and while not always the best PQ, I find most of the titles I get endlessly entertaining (especially the film noir selections).

Murder, My Sweet (Warner Archive)
recommendation: Tier 3.0*

Strange Adventure, A (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 3.75*

He Ran All the Way (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 3.75*

I, Jane Doe (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 4.0*

It Always Rains on Sunday (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 4.0*

Five Graves to Cairo (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 3.5*
 
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V for Vendetta (UHD)

It has been many years since I watched my HD-DVD copy of this release. I had forgotten a majority of the film but I did remember the PQ being very good. I can say with certainty that this UHD release has brought a significant uptick in resolution to the PQ and the HDR has really "upped the ante" in the "specular highlights" with spectacular "fiery explosions" in several of the scenes. BLACK LEVELS were exemplary along with nuanced SHADOW DETAILS. Colors were on the "muted" side for the most part but when primaries were on display they were extremely VIBRANT. Close-ups revealed very detailed facial texture...flesh tones were spot-on...and depth was appreciable in a few scenes.

My biggest "gripe" was in the muted color palette in a vast majority of scenes leaving us with a very "sterile look," especially in many indoor scenes (in apartments and government buildings).

Before I give a placement, I simply must praise the Dolby Atmos mix! I kept my it at -3 during the whole movie and during "action scenes" the LFE/Bass was marvelous with precise panning effects across every channel. The dialogue was also clear.


Tier Recommendation: 1.0*

PS I "almost" put it in the bottom of Tier 0!
 

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Unhinged (1080p)

So, I was perusing the Redbox website for a good rental this morning and I came across one of the few "Blu-rays" they had to offer (most are simply "DVDs") that piqued my interest; namely, the above mentioned title. What caught my eye was the lead star....Russell Crowe. I can't recall ever seeing him in a movie I didn't like so I rented it. The "credits are now rolling" so here are my brief impressions.

PQ-wise this was a BEAUTY! It has striking CLARITY with super-sharp DETAILS, natural and vibrant COLORS, inky BLACKS, accurate FLESH TONES, and very good DEPTH. At times I thought to myself, "Man, this looks like it was shot in 4K!" I found zero anomalies or anything else to complain about.

AQ-wise it was also excellent. Though much of it was character-driven with lots of dialogue, it also had a few scenes with quite a bit of action....LOUD ACTION, in fact.

Before I give my placement, I was shocked to see how much WEIGHT Russell Crowe had gained to do this movie. I kid you not he looked like he weighed at least 250 lbs!! I should also say if you see this film "you will never look at Mr. Crowe the same ever again"; it is far (and I mean FAR) from any other role he has ever done, period. And last, but not least, after seeing this movie "you will never drive the same again." You will be respectful to every driver around you and you will do all in your power to avoid ticking anyone off.

Tier Recommendation: Tier 0* (.9)

PS The VIOLENCE and LANGUAGE deserved the R rating of this movie. It is not for the squeamish (like me....I had to look away or mute the sound at times).

PPS I just checked and even though Crowe had a "fat suit" on underneath his shirt he still weighed in at almost 270 lbs.!!! And now he needs to shed a good 100 lbs for the upcoming Gladiator 2 movie.
 

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Antebellum (1080p)

This is yet another "mixed bag" where you had stellar PQ in every daytime, outdoor scene (and they were plentiful!) and not-so-stellar PQ in nighttime scenes, especially in the night scenes on the "plantation." In other words, they were like "night and day!"

In the daytime scenes COLORS were rich, warm and vibrant. DETAILS were exemplary in facial close-ups, foliage, clothing, cityscapes, cars, etc., etc. DEPTH was almost 3D in a number of shots. FLESH TONES were as natural as could be. CLARITY reigned supreme!

In the nighttime "plantation" scenes the PQ was unusually SOFT with fleeting instances of NOISE, and a lack of DETAIL and DEPTH
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I have always found it difficult ranking films like these. In this one the "daytime scenes" were all "reference" and the aforementioned "nighttime scenes" were all Tier 3, at best. One might be inclined to "average these out" and give it a low Tier 1 placement, but the daytime scenes were more numerous so I'm opting for.....

Tier Recommendation: 1.25*
 

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Man Who Died Twice, The (Kino Lorber)
recommendation: Tier 4.0*

Out of the Past (Warner Archive)

recommendation: Tier 2.75*

Lady Vanishes, The (Criterion)

recommendation: Tier 4.0*
 

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The Sons of Katie Elder

recommendation: Tier 3.0*

It took Paramount long enough to finally release this John Wayne movie on Blu-ray. The transfer is a mixed bag, producing a serviceable effort. Not a complete disappointment but halos are visible in several extended passages. The 2.35:1 presentation has a lot of life with fine colors and an excellent contrast. The transfer uses decent-looking film elements. A few little signs of wear are evident.

I'm guessing Paramount has had this film transfer laying around a few years. The image harvest doesn't quite match up with the latest 4K scans. It hasn't been heavily filtered, texture and micro-detail are fairly abundant. Definition and clarity are decent, all things considered for the 1965 Western.

The mildly dated presentation could be improved with a real film restoration but I found the PQ pleasing enough for BD. Clearly an improvement in depth and dimensionality over Paramount's original DVD edition. Not the best catalog transfer by any means but Paramount has priced the disc under $10 on occasion.
 

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Witness to Murder (Kino Lorber)
recommendation: Tier 4.0*

Sword of Sherwood Forrest (Mill Creek)

recommendation: Tier 3.0*

Only Angels Have Wings (Criterion)

recommendation: Tier 2.0*

Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 2.5*

Leave Her to Heaven (Criterion)

recommendation: Tier 1.75*
 

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Five Steps to Danger (ClassicFlix)
recommendation: Tier 3.0*

Killers, The (1946) (Criterion)

recommendation: Tier 3.0*

Killers, The (1964) (Criterion)

recommendation: Tier 2.75*

Girl in Black Stockings, The (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 4.0*

Guns Girls and Gangsters (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 4.0*

Vice Raid (Kino Lorber)

recommendation: Tier 4.0*
 
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The Passion of Darkly Noon

recommendation: Tier 3.5*

I'm having trouble placing this Arrow Video release given some of the radical decisions made by the director and cinematographer when finishing this new transfer. The bizarre, surreal movie from the 90s is awash in serious color saturation, leading to blown-out highlights and other anomalies we'd normally consider a mistake. The film transfer itself is filled with nice definition and unfiltered detail. All the problems lie with a decidedly skewed color grading that is all over the map.

I usually don't have a serious problem when a director makes extreme creative decisions but mistakes have been made that do little but denigrate the picture quality. It's an amateur effort at best.
 

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The Passion of Darkly Noon

recommendation: Tier 3.5*

I'm having trouble placing this Arrow Video release given some of the radical decisions made by the director and cinematographer when finishing this new transfer. The bizarre, surreal movie from the 90s is awash in serious color saturation, leading to blown-out highlights and other anomalies we'd normally consider a mistake. The film transfer itself is filled with nice definition and unfiltered detail. All the problems lie with a decidedly skewed color grading that is all over the map.

I usually don't have a serious problem when a director makes extreme creative decisions but mistakes have been made that do little but denigrate the picture quality. It's an amateur effort at best.
I don't blame you one bit for this reaction Phantom. You know full well that "color grading," especially if it is egregious, is "taboo" to me and I often dock the placement quite a bit if it disturbs other elements of the film.
 

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I don't blame you one bit for this reaction Phantom. You know full well that "color grading," especially if it is egregious, is "taboo" to me and I often dock the placement quite a bit if it disturbs other elements of the film.
They went way overboard this time, it was over the top. The film is meant to be surreal but it just didn't work on any level.
 

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The Sons of Katie Elder

recommendation: Tier 3.0*

It took Paramount long enough to finally release this John Wayne movie on Blu-ray. The transfer is a mixed bag, producing a serviceable effort. Not a complete disappointment but halos are visible in several extended passages. The 2.35:1 presentation has a lot of life with fine colors and an excellent contrast. The transfer uses decent-looking film elements. A few little signs of wear are evident.

I'm guessing Paramount has had this film transfer laying around a few years. The image harvest doesn't quite match up with the latest 4K scans. It hasn't been heavily filtered, texture and micro-detail are fairly abundant. Definition and clarity are decent, all things considered for the 1965 Western.

The mildly dated presentation could be improved with a real film restoration but I found the PQ pleasing enough for BD. Clearly an improvement in depth and dimensionality over Paramount's original DVD edition. Not the best catalog transfer by any means but Paramount has priced the disc under $10 on occasion.
Thanks for that. Any news on The Shootist (1976) to US Blu-ray?
 

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (UHD)

STUNNING!!!

That about sums it up! Yet, as always, I can't just "leave it there"; I must say something about the "details" of the film. Let's start with DETAILS...oh my word, they are CRAZY-GOOD! In comparing this with my review in 2013 of the Blu-ray version, I had said that details were amazing in everything but Bilbo's face. Well, his face had plenty of TEXTURE in the UHD version and so did everyone else's! Of course details abounded in everything, especially the spectacular landscapes (forests, mountains, rivers, etc.)...pure EYE CANDY all the way.

This is not the most colorful film but when PRIMARIES were on display they had the "WOW effect" we crave. These too trumped the colors on the 1080p version thanks to HDR. Speaking of HDR, there are plenty of scenes with FIRE (lots of FIRE!!!) and the specular highlights were fantastic. CONTRAST was super-strong and BLACK LEVELS/SHADOW DETAILS were to-die-for! FLESH TONES were spot-on accurate. DEPTH was very, very pleasing in many scenes.

If I had one gripe it would be with some SOFT SHOTS in isolated scenes. These were seen in some low-lit interior shots and with some of the CGI (though most of the CGI was exemplary).

Before I give my placement, a word is in order concerning the Dolby Atmos mix. Again I must say....STUNNING! This had some of the best panning effects and they were as precise as one could ask for. LFE/Bass was also a real treat, though I kept my volume at -10 for most of the 2 1/2 hours running time because my wife was home and this is a loud mix. Someday I will view many of action scenes at reference and then I'll report back to you.

I gave the 1080p mix a Tier 0 (.66) rating but this UHD release takes it up to another level altogether.

Tier Recommendation: Tier 0* (.25)
 

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The Greatest Showman

GORGEOUS!!


That about sums up this wonderful musical! COLORS were as bold & vibrant as can be! DETAILS were exemplary! CLARITY was superb! BLACK LEVELS/SHADOW DETAILS were to-die-for! FLESH TONES were accurate! DEPTH was astounding! Do you get the PICTURE? If not, see it for yourself and you will!

Tier Recommendation: Tier 0* (.25)

PS I'm not the greatest fan of musicals, but this was infectious from the opening song to the finale!

PPS Let me add one word to my uncharacteristic "short" review. There were scenes that were simply breath-taking, even exotic!
Hey guys! Haven't been here in a while(long time). I agree completely with this rating! I know its over two years old, but if you haven't seen the UHD disc Greatest Showman, its absolutely spectacular reference material! I would surely put it in Tier 0.
 

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The Greatest Showman

GORGEOUS!!


That about sums up this wonderful musical! COLORS were as bold & vibrant as can be! DETAILS were exemplary! CLARITY was superb! BLACK LEVELS/SHADOW DETAILS were to-die-for! FLESH TONES were accurate! DEPTH was astounding! Do you get the PICTURE? If not, see it for yourself and you will!

Tier Recommendation: Tier 0* (.25)

PS I'm not the greatest fan of musicals, but this was infectious from the opening song to the finale!

PPS Let me add one word to my uncharacteristic "short" review. There were scenes that were simply breath-taking, even exotic!
Hey guys! Haven't been here in a while(long time). I agree completely with this rating! I know its over two years old, but if you haven't seen the UHD disc Greatest Showman, its absolutely spectacular reference material! I would surely put it in Tier 0.
 
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Words on Bathroom Walls (1080p)

Thanks to our AVS "Resident Reviewer" (Ralph Potts) I heard about this "hidden gem of a movie." I don't want to put out any "Spoilers" but this deals with schizophrenia and it is quite "thought-provoking" with an excellent cast that presented the case for having "compassion" and "patience" with one with this dreadful disease. I highly recommend it!

PQ-wise it was very good...not "Reference" but I would put it on my "Demo Shelf" (in the middle somewhere). It did have some SOFTNESS due to CGI shots and during those scenes it lacked details and depth. A big surprise was the AQ, for even though this is largely a "dialog-driven film" it has surprisingly good range with topnotch panning effects (during some of the lead actor's "episodes") and some good musical numbers.


Tier Recommendation: 1.5*
 

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Hey guys! Haven't been here in a while(long time). I agree completely with this rating! I know its over two years old, but if you haven't seen the UHD disc Greatest Showman, its absolutely spectacular reference material! I would surely put it in Tier 0.
So good to hear from you Joe! Also good to know you watched and enjoyed The Greatest Showman. It has had multiple viewings in this house and everyone that sees it loves it...not just for the amazing PQ but also for the story, acting, and catchy musical numbers.

Thanks too for posting Vincent's thoughts on the HDR in the movie. The specular highlights were stellar throughout as were the colors!
 
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