Father’s Day 4K Movie Gift Guide: ‘Batman,’ ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Alien’ and more
WASHINGTON: With Father’s Day right around the corner, here are a few last-minute gift suggestions for the dad who loves watching ultra-high-definition movies in his home entertainment kingdom.
Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II: Anniversary Steelbook Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 1.85:1 aspect ratio,105 and 108 minutes, $65.99) —
Director Ivan Reitman’s 1980s chronicle of the world’s premiere paranormal investigative team returns in a gift-ready metallic case offering both films in a 1080p and 2160p format and packed with extras.
The movies found the team of Egon Spengler (the late Harold Ramis), Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) building a business based on capturing unruly spirits in New York City,
They offer assistance to Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and must first contend with the demi-god Gozar and its multistory Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and then, five years later, fight hostile pink slime and the spirit of Vigo the Carpathian.
Suffice it to report, each film has plenty of laughs and charm and has ultimately found a protective, hardcore fan base that worships the Ghostbusters legacy to this day.
Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II return with the same 4K remastering done in 2016. The original often suffers from too much grain and digital noise in scenes, although the Stay Puft confrontation manages to look spectacular in both clarity and color.
However, “Ghostbusters II” fares way better, and older fans will find the eye-popping visuals a welcomed experience. It’s the kind of “wow” presentation one would expect from a UHD release.
Pop in the Blu-ray versions of the films and listen to a vintage optional commentary track with Mr. Reitman, Harold Ramis and producer Joe Medjuck as well as a new, unexpectedly enlightening, hardcore fan commentary track (with even a prop replica expert in the group) on “Ghostbusters,” and, a coveted, new commentary track with Mr. Reitman, Mr. Aykroydand Mr. Medjuck for the second film.
Next, a small collection of unearthed, never-seen-before extras arrives via a fifth Blu-ray disc found in the package.
Ghostbusters on Oprah
Standouts first include a full 1989 episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” devoted to “Ghostbusters II” with Mr. Murray, Ramis, Mr. Hudson, Mr. Aykroyd, Miss Weaver and Annie Potts (secretary Janine Melnitz). And yes, that is future “Saturday Night Live” star Chris Farley in the audience.
Next, a 12-minute, 1984 promotion reel has Mr. Murray and Mr. Aykroyd being goofy while pitching “Ghostbusters” at ShoWest (a movie industry convention).
Also worth watching are outtakes from the Ghostbusters team commercial; production notes from Don Shay (as a text trivia track); raw takes of Mr. Murray (doing a great version of his “Caddyshack” character) and Mr. Aykroyd playing bums; and the cut scenes from the haunted Fort Detmerring (turned into a dream sequence in the first).
All of the other previously released featurettes, roughly 17 deleted scenes and other goodies are spread out throughout the Blu-ray discs and range from trivia tracks to production featurettes and a look at resurrecting the Ecto-1 vehicle.
Batman: 30th Anniversary Edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 126 minutes, $41.99) —
Director Tim Burton’s groundbreaking cinematic opus to the Dark Knight moves to UHD realms showcasing a noirish gothic design of Gotham City and Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable portrayal of the Joker.
Fans will also remember Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, donning the Batman costume and actually delivering a believable performance as he competes with the scene-chewing of Mr. Nicholson’s Clown Prince of Crime.
Warner Bros. delivers a nearly immaculate digital remastering of the 1989 movie working from 35mm camera negative scans while adding high dynamic range enhancements.
The results showcase the saturated color pop coming off of the Joker’s pasty-white and fleshy face as well as many wild costumes (check out his work and hat in the art museum scenes). The details show the finest parts of the massive parade balloons and Batman’s incredible collection of toys.
Also, the new Dolby Atmos soundtrack surrounds with Danny Elfman’s memorable score and is punctuated with Prince’s odd pop songs.
“Batman Returns” (1992), “Batman Forever” (1995) and “Batman and Robin” (1997)
The other three films available in the series — “Batman Returns” (1992), “Batman Forever” (1995) and “Batman and Robin” (1997) — have also been digitally remastered ($41.99 each). It’s too bad they couldn’t remaster the last two film’s plots and direction.
Still, “Batman Returns” certainly shines as brightly as Mr. Burton’s original, with Mr. Keaton back at the helm but layering on the director’s odd fascination with the macabre.
It’s a delightful horror show with the villain Penguin (Danny DeVito) offering a generous amount of pathos and gross and Michelle Pfeiffer adding spice to the proceedings as an unforgettable Catwoman.
As far as the too campy 1995 and 1997 efforts from director Joel Schumacher, the visuals look the best of the bunch, but they are simply terrible films.
Despite a pretty great Riddler from Jim Carrey in “Batman Forever,” both are ill-conceived merchandising cash grabs, especially “Batman and Robin” starring the poorly cast George Clooney as the Caped Crusader.
Except for a vintage optional commentary track by Mr. Burton on the 4K disc, all of the other content can be found on the Blu-ray disc.
Culled from the 2009 Anthology box set, the best features a 40-minute overview of Batman in comic books and three parts of the 2.5-hour-long documentary “Shadows of the Bat: The Cinematic Saga of the Dark Knight.”
The other films add the remaining three parts of the documentary as well as the original extras tied to the anthology release.
The Karate Kid: 35th Anniversary Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 1.85:1 aspect ratio,127 minutes, $19.96) —
Academy Award-winning director John G. Avildsen’s 1980s coming-of-age masterpiece offers the tale of 16-year-old Daniel LaRusso and his enlightening journey from New Jersey to California to become a martial arts champion.
Ralph Macchio stars and after taking multiple beatings from a group of bullies from the Cobra Kai dojo led by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), he learns the ways of defense with help from new mentor and fatherly figure Mr. Miyagi (Academy Award-nominated Pat Morita).
Crisply digitally restored from the camera negative with added high dynamic range tweaks to the 2160p presentation, the 1980s clothing colors really pop, but the movie still retains the wonderful warmth of film stock that often gets lost in the current days of digital cinema.
Especially prominent are the screen-filling panoramic scenes of California, the sunrise on the Pacific Ocean with crashing waves and that dazzling, yellow 1948 Ford Super Deluxe gifted to Daniel by Mr. Miyagi.
A new, 10-minute retrospective found on the 4K disc offers memories from the main actors — Mr. Macchio, Mr. Zapka and Martin Kove (belligerent dojo owner John Kresse) — as they cover favorite scenes, friendships over the years and favorite tag lines.
The bundled Blu-ray features a welcomed optional commentary track with the late Avildsen, writer Robert Mark Kamen, Mr. Macchio, and the late Morita, a pop-up trivia track and a two-part, 45-minute production featurette.
Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1-aspect ratio, 152 minutes, $30) —
Director Ridley Scott’s Academy Award-winning, ferocious look at modern combat returns with a gut punch of new realism, thanks to a 4K digitally remastered upgrade from the original camera negatives.
Set in 1993, the true story covers an elite group of American Rangers and Delta Force soldiers sent to Somalia to capture a violent warlord whose corrupt regime has led to the starvation of hundreds of thousands of Somalis.
Covering the nightmarish Battle of Mogadishu, a bad guy extraction mission goes terribly wrong and, with Black Hawk helicopters shot to the ground, the men find themselves outnumbered and literally fighting for their lives on the streets.
An all-star cast fuels the machismo and tragic events featuring Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Jason Isaacs, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Sam Shepard and, in his movie debut, Tom Hardy.
Owners get two versions of the film, the original theatrical version and the extended cut from Mr. Scott (8 minutes longer) both boasting the 2160p restoration.
The UHD really shines when examining nearly every U.S. soldier fighting for his life. Highlights include skin aberrations, blood drips, razor stubble and every level of sweat imaginable including droplets, receding hairline perspiration and even flying saliva.
Through a pair of Blu-ray discs, viewers get the ultimate overview of the film and the real mission culled from 2003 Deluxe Edition DVD release and 2006 Blu-ray release.
First, find three optional commentary tracks with Mr. Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer; author Mark Bowden and screenwriter Ken Nolan; and the third with U.S. Special Forces veterans.
Next, other worthy bonus content includes the 151-minute, six-part documentary on the making of the film, The History Channel program “The True Story of Black Hawk Down” (90-minutes) and the Frontline PBS presentation “Ambush in Mogadishu” (55 minutes). The latter two are a fairly comprehensive overview and political dissection of the real events.
Alien: 40th Anniversary Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio,117 minutes, $24.99) —
Arguably the greatest science-fiction survival horror movie ever made debuts on 4K to give dad an eye-popping and intimate introduction to the Xenomorph species in his home entertainment room.
Back in 1979, Director Ridley Scott took movie-goers so deep into space that no one could hear them scream as he chronicled the ill-fated voyage of the commercial towing ship the Nostromo and the crew’s discovery of an evolving, acid-blooded creature ready to go on a murderous rampage.
A young Sigourney Weaver starred as Warrant Officer Ripley, the hero ready to challenge the unstoppable horror in claustrophobic spaces. The visuals will shock viewers and cause bouts nail-gnawing, eye squinting and heart pounding.
If this is not the definitive aural and visual version of the film, I’ll eat my Weyland-Yutani baseball cap. The director supervised the digital remastering from the original 35mm camera negatives, and it’s stunning. Don’t believe me?
Slowly examine the misty dream-like egg chamber hidden under the space jockey’s alien vessel and the bulbous horror show that follows, or the pivotal scene when a chest burster explodes from a crewmate.
Suffice it to report, the crispness and color acuity highlight a few of the most memorable moments in movie history.
Notable extras: On the 4K disc, owners get two cuts of the film, the theatrical version and slightly shorter director’s cut from 2003 (about a minute less).
Also included are the 1999 commentary track with Mr. Scott; and a 2003 commentary track with Mr. Scott, writer Dan O’Bannon, executive producer Ronald Shusett, editor Terry Rawlings and actors Sigourney Weaver, Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt and Veronica Cartwright.
And, really worth noting, use the included digital code for the Movies Anywhere free streaming service and not only get more original featurettes but also check out the six, 40th anniversary shorts. It’s an hour’s worth of extra terror all collected in one virtual spot.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio,144 minutes, $25.99) —
Director Michael Bay’s gritty biographical war movie from 2016 debuts on the 4K Ultra HD format to revisit the jihadist attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Libya that took the life of J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three others on Sept. 11, 2012.
A team primarily composed of six private military contractors were tasked with not only attempting to rescue Stevens and his staff at his compound in the middle of a firefight but return to their CIA base to protect personnel from waves of subsequent attacks until help could arrive.
What happened remains one of the most sickening and infuriating incidents in U.S. foreign policy history.
Upgrading from an already fantastic 2K digital intermediate to UHD translates into feeling like viewers are sitting on a compound rooftop, watching every droplet of the team’s sweat and blood as the radicals attack often from a field well named Zombieland.
Nothing on the 4K disc, but the Blu-ray mimics the extras from the 2016 Blu-ray release. It includes 27 minutes on the making of the film (with first-person sources taking part in the project) and a too-short, 9-minute brief overview on the events leading up to the attack.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.