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Father’s Day Gift Guide: Best 4K Ultra HD movies for dad

June 13, 2018

Here are a few last-minute movie ideas for dads plugged into the ultra-high definition revolution, and each features high dynamic range enhancements to color and lighting as well as eye-popping 2160p visual clarity.

The Matrix (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, rated R, 136 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $33.07) Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s iconic, Academy Award-winning, sci-fi opus gets meticulously mastered to the 2160p format to give a new generation of fathers a mind-blowing experience.

Back in 1999, viewers were introduced to hacker Thomas “Neo” Anderson (Keanu Reeves) and quickly learned of his obsession with meeting the mysterious Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Mr. Anderson’s eventual encounter with the man turned his world upside down and gave movie audiences a technology-infused roller coaster ride in the process.

The film’s latest iteration highlights an HDR mastering effort, supervised by original cinematographer Bill Pope, that involved scanning the original negative and adding color correction when necessary.

It delivers the best possible presentation to the viewers, providing a more subtle variation between the Matrix world (greenish-tinted) and the real world (more bluish-tinted) along with plenty of clarity during all of the epic firefights, slow-motion bullet sequences and close-quarters combat.

Notable extras: The 4K disc contains four previously released optional commentary tracks including comments from cast and crew (Trinity actress Carrie-Anne Moss, editor Zach Staenberg and visual effects guru John Gaeta); a critics’ track (with Variety’s Todd McCarthy, NPR’s John Powers and cinema historian David Thomson); a philosophers’ track (with activist Cornel West and transpersonal psychology expert Ken Wilber); and composer track with Don Davis.

A pair of included Blu-ray Discs offer hours of previously released extras such as an in-movie experience (pop-up box interviews over the film with key cast and crew members highlighted by the Wachowski brothers insight) and an over 2-hour-long documentary on “The Matrix” from 2001.

Fury (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated R, 135 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $26.49) Surviving during World War II inside an M4 Sherman tank came to brutal and claustrophobic life in director David Ayer’s 2014 graphic drama, now available in the ultra-high definition format.

The emotional and often hard-to-watch story delivers the movie horrors of battle defined and witnessed by tank commander Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) and his grizzled crew (portrayed by Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pea, Jon Bernthal and Logan Lerman).

The brutal action plays out during the final days of the war as they push forward into Germany and meet stiff resistance.

Suffice it to report, the increased uptick in resolution during night scenes and the smothering and smoky colors of the violence unleashed during battle, combined with an immersive and booming Dolby Atmos sound mix, make this release highly recommended for the elder war cinema connoisseur in the family.

Notable extras: The 4K disc features a new collection of featurettes (more than 90 minutes in total) spearheaded by the 46-minute-long Smithsonian Channel documentary “Tanks of Fury” that mixes behind-the-scenes footage from the film and an informative history lesson on the use of tanks in World War II.

The included Blu-ray Disc adds another hour’s worth of behind-the-scenes segments (highlighted by interviews with World War II veterans) and as well as another almost hour’s worth of deleted or extended scenes.

Die Hard (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated R, 132 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $24.99) Director John McTiernan’s 1988 action thriller that turned Bruce Willis into a box office superstar returns with remastered 4K visual presentation sure to cause dads to scream “yippee ki-yay.”

The story of New York City cop John McClane (Mr. Willis) hoping to reunite with his estranged family in Los Angeles during the holidays turns into a life-and-death struggle after he stops by Nakatomi Plaza to visit his spouse. Once there, he finds global terrorists have taken over the building (led by Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber) looking for a big payout at any cost.

A more than worthy recipient of an ultra-high definition remaster, the film now allows viewers to gloriously experience every explosion and close-quarter combat scene as well as finely inspect every part of Mr. Wills’ bruised and battered body down to bloodstains, nicks, cuts, blood droplet from embedded glass and layers of perspiration.

Notable extras: The 4K disc offers three previously released optional commentary tracks (full audio by director John McTiernan and production designer Jackson De Govia; scene specific audio by visual effects supervisor Richard Edlund; and a subtitled information track with facts and quotes from select cast and crew, including screenwriter Steven E. de Souza and producer Joel Silver).

Also, use the included download code on the Movies Anywhere cloud-based digital service to find a selection of vintage featurettes.

Saving Private Ryan: Commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment, rated R, 169 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $31.99) Director Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning World War II drama from 1998 comes to dramatic life with its latest iteration mastered in ultra-high definition.

The simple story of a group of grizzled soldiers (portrayed by Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi and Vin Diesel, to name a few) sent on a mission behind enemy lines to find a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in combat plays out over the D-Day Invasion and subsequent Allies march to liberate France from the Nazis.

Here’s an example of a movie that a viewer might not want to watch in a startling 4K format. The horrifying and gritty scenes of war are now practically alive in one’s home entertainment room due to the sobering uptick in clarity and saturated range of bloodied colors.

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack immersion is equally startling, as bullets whiz by the viewer in the D-Day assault, and the amount of firepower unleashed may cause a mild case of shell shock for those lasting through the credits.

Notable extras: Best of the bunch, all culled from the 1998 home video release and included on extra Blu-ray disc, is a vintage 90-minute documentary hosted by Tom Hanks about the combat cameramen (roughly 1,500 men) that shot the reality of World War II.

It offers plenty of interviews with the shooters and touches on the work of directors such as John Ford creating propaganda pieces as well as revealing footage from such moments as Doolittle’s Raiders in action, the sinking of the aircraft carrier the USS Hornet and the Marines taking Iwo Jima.

The Patriot (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, rated R, 165 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $20.99) The emotionally charged, blockbustered look at the American Revolution from director Roland Emmerich returns to home entertainment centers freshly remastered in 2160p and loaded with moments to cheer on those colonial upstarts.

The rousing tale presents a retired and widowed warrior Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson as his most ferociously charismatic) forced to give up a simpler farming life and return to battle to protect his seven children against the British during America’s fight for freedom.

Viewers will certainly appreciate the massive visual upgrade to an 18-year-old movie, through crisp detail and color-saturated enhancements witnessed during every large-scale skirmish.

They can also now scrutinize the periods authentic costuming brought to new life, down to every British soldier’s ornate clothing stitch and tri-corner hat wrinkle.

Notable extras: Sony dives deep into its vintage archive to offer featurettes and even an optional commentary track on the 4K disc that go back to the film’s release on DVD back in 2000.

Obviously, fans will want to first listen to Mr. Emmerich and buddy producer Dean Devlin talk about the production over the film, and they do not disappoint. Each dives into some of the criticisms, the historical moments and moviemaking fodder through a nonstop dialogue centered on building this classic.

Also, an extra 30 minutes of production segments spotlight some of the violently graphic special effects and look at the historical accuracy of the movie.

And, the package includes the extended version of the film, in the high-definition format, clocking in at almost 3 hours long (195 minutes).

Grease: 40th Anniversary Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment, rated PG, 105 minutes, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, $31.99) Director Randal Kleiser’s movie musical dynamo debuts in the high-definition format and gives dad a chance to remember when he first hung out with the kooky kids of Rydell High School.

Older fans will remember the impact this film made back in 1978, adapting a mega-successful 1950s-themed musical and taking advantage of the smoldering careers of John Travolta (as tough guy Danny Zuko) and singer Olivia Newton-John (as the wholesome Sandy Olsson).

A plot finds the summer lovebirds Sandy and Danny returning to school for senior year and now estranged due to peer pressure, mostly leveled by Danny’s greaser gang the T-Birds. Sandy must learn to navigate the waters of a bruising adolescence and cliques to once again find happiness with Danny.

The newly restored version (with the original negative digitally rescanned, clean-up and color corrected) is pretty impressive for a four-decade-old film but does deliver mixed results.

Moments such as the opening animated sequence as well as the occasional soft focus and fuzz around the edges of some scenes are annoying, but the actor close-ups (check out tears falling down Sandy’s cheeks or the T-Birds worn leather jackets) as well as outdoor scenes are near immaculate in clarity and color saturation.

In fact, it was almost like I was sitting in the audience watching the live Broadway show during many parts of the film.

Better yet, the infectious hit parade of songs including “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Beauty School Dropout” and “You’re the One That I Want” delivered via a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundmix will have the room singing along and appreciating the voices and rock instrumentation.

Notable extras: All contained on the Blu-ray Disc, the new 40th anniversary digital goodies include an alternate ending and opening song as well as a 24-minute retrospective on the origins of the first Chicago stage production of “Grease,” highlighting interviews from original cast member Marilu Henner and co-creator Jim Jacobs.

Other, previously released, extras include an optional commentary track with Mr. Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch, a karaoke-enhanced version of the movie and some fun footage from the 2002 DVD release party that featured Miss Newton-John and Mr. Travolta singing a few of the “Grease” classics.

Jurassic Park Collection: 25th Anniversary Edition (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 474 minutes, 1.85:1 and 2.00:1 aspect ratio, $79.98) The premiere film franchise devoted to tales about genetically re-engineered dinosaurs returning to the modern world debuts in ultra-high definition and will cause fans to roar with approval.

Housed in a slipcased, full-color, 8-page digibook packed with photos, the 8-disc set includes the movies “Jurassic Park” (1993), “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” (1997), “Jurassic Park III” (2001) and “Jurassic World” (2015).

Reportedly, the 4K restoration involved scans from the original camera negatives, clean-up of the digital scans and color corrections for high-dynamic range upgrades.

The results are not quite as astounding as one would hope for but visually impressive enough to make viewers want to meticulously observe the groundbreaking special effects craftsmanship of those incredible prehistoric beasts.

Especially noteworthy were bringing the triceratops, mosasaurus, pteranodon, Tyrannosaurus rex, brachiosaurus, velociraptor spinosaurus and the Indominus Rex hybrid to digital life.

Dads may be the lucky recipients of the set, but the entire family will be devouring these monstrous thrillers.

Notable extras: The third film’s 4K disc offers a worthwhile optional commentary track with the special effects team (Dan Taylor, John Rosengrant, Michael Lantieri and legend Stan Winston).

All of the other hours worth of extras are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Discs for each film, highlighted by a six-part, over 2-hour-long retrospective on the original trilogy and a vintage “making of” documentary (averaging 50 minutes each) for the first three films.

Among the other featurettes that fans will appreciate are a quick tour through Stan Winston Studios (the team that made the animatronic dinosaurs) and a selection of segments devoted to digital special effects powerhouse Industrial Light Magic (the group that made the virtual dinosaurs).

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