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‘Spies in Disguise’ and ‘Charlie’s Angels’ offer plenty of spy thrills (4K Ultra HD reviews)

Written By | Mar 25, 2020
Charlie's Angels, Spies in Disguise, 4K Ultra HD, Movie, Review

The latest team of “Charlie’s Angels” (Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott) and a secret agent pigeon co-stars in “Spies in Disguise,” both movies now available on 4K Ultra HD.

Here’s a look at a pair of spy thrillers’ available in the ultra-high-definition format.

Spies in Disguise (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 101 minutes, $45.99)

From the animation house that gave the world a new “Ice Age,” Blue Sky Studios recently delivered a frenetic action-comedy, now available in ultra-high definition, that will impress in home theater realms due to its extras more than UHD presentation.

That’s not a rub against what is an amusing computer-animated story covering the challenging life of superstar secret agent Lance Sterling (voiced by Will Smith) who is accidentally turned into a pigeon by eternal optimist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland), a brilliantly inept young scientist simply looking to help.

The plot unfolds as the two must work together to stop a cybernetic terrorist and his weaponized drone army, avoid capture by former employer H.T.U.V. (Honor, Trust, Unity and Valor) and return Lance back to his human form.

The movie not only works due to the amusing chemistry between Mr. Smith and Mr. Holland and some cool spy gadgets (reference the inflatable hug) but also some high-powered, lifelike action scenes, especially a chase in a Mexican resort

Overall, “Spies in Disguise” will please younger fans who love the “Despicable Me” franchise as well as Tex Avery-style hijinks.

Spies in Disguise – 4K in action:

Although I found little difference between the visual might of the 4K and 2K release of “Spies in Disguise” in a home theater setting, viewers will still be impressed with the 3D-like quality of some scenes boasting lifelike detail and vibrant color throughout.

Specifically, sharp neon purples, reds, pinks, blues, and greens vex the eyes when watching a kitty glitter bomb massively explode or bubbling liquids and a rainbow of smoke effects.

Viewers will also appreciate the hyper-reality of the Venice canals as equally as Walter’s textured corduroy pants or the Audi RSQ-etron spy car and a weapons dealer named Katsu Kimura practically turned into Silly Putty.

Spies in Disguise – Best extras:

Pop up in the included Blu-ray, sit the family back down and watch the film again in Super Secret Spy Mode in-movie experience to appreciate the days when home entertainment releases were truly special.

Specifically, directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane literally pop on the screen during the film to point out Easter eggs and top-secret intel as well as offer segments with other members of the production team covering the making of an animated movie.

The pair will point out on young Walter’s workbench Lugnut, a character from the Blue Sky Studios’ film “Robots” (remember that one, parents?).

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Or production designer Michael Knapp discusses the use of a Japanese temple as a villain’s den to introduce Lance (helped with storyboard art) while art director Jason Sadler and lead sculptor Vicki Saulls talk about designing Walter with plenty of visual aids.

I only wish the pops were more in abundance as they are always interesting.

Viewers also get another 9 minutes on bringing the complex cartoon to life, and a short 3-minute guide to some of the coolest gadgets used by Lance and Walter

Charlie’s Angels (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 118 minutes, $40.99) —

Director Elizabeth Banks’ cinematic reinterpretation of a classic television show underperformed at the box office but looks for a second life with some help from 4K home theater technology.

The familiar canon finds a collection of sassy female private investigators nicknamed “angels,” working for the Townsend Agency, owned by mysterious Charlie, as they thwart super criminals around the world. The angels are mentored and mentored by an assortment of Bosleys, which is now a rank in the organization.

This adventure focuses on a pair of the angels — ex-con Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and former MI6 officer Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) — and Rebekah Bosley (Elizabeth Banks).

The team is assigned to protect a programming engineer whistleblower (Naomi Scott) exposing evil men selling a powerful and weaponizable handheld pentagonal energy source nicknamed Calisto.

Despite some excellent close-quarter combat scenes and a stream of fun performances by Miss Scott, Miss Stewart, Jonathan Tucker as a nasty assassin and Patrick Stewart as a retired Bosley, this “Charlie’s Angels” plays it too safe.

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It misses some of the charm and sexiness of the original TV show and even the quirky humor of the 2000 reboot with Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu.

Miss Banks does deliver a breezy, girl-empowered, mindless action film more than happy to mock and mangle misogynists across the globe while seeking to be embraced by a younger generation of female fans.

Charlie’s Angels – 4K in action:

The 4K transfer from the 2K digital intermediate is a crisp and colorful example of why viewers should embrace UHD.

With scenes nearly all over the world, from London to Istanbul, in a variety of conditions from blinding sun to even underwater, visuals are never washed out or too dark. The chaotic fight scenes display remarkable focus, and the actors’ facial flaws and skin tones offer lifelike organic clarity. Sony has done a masterful job bringing the film to the 4K realms.

Charlie’s Angels – Best extras:

Viewers get on the included Blu-ray four featurettes (25 minutes total) covering the energetic camaraderie of the female cast, the leadership and brilliance of Miss Banks, the fight choreography and costuming along with the lame music video “Don’t Call Me Angel” by Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Lana Del Rey.

• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.

Joseph Szadkowski

A graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications, Joseph Szadkowski has written about popular culture for The Washington Times for the past 25 years. He covers video games, comic books, new media and technology.