The Best 4K Blu-rays of 2018
95The first quarter of any year is always good for disc releases as the films that were released in the run-up to Christmas find their way on to the home video market.This year is no exception, with some of 2017's biggest films hitting Ultra HD Blu-ray between now and the end of March. So there's Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Murder on the Orient Express, Paddington 2, Justice League and Star Wars: The Last Jedi all arriving on 4K disc in the first quarter. We also get the return of serial killer Jigsaw and the release of The Dark Crystal with a full 4K restoration, which is sure to please fans of Jim Henson's fantasy masterpiece. So here are the ten discs you should be buying in the first quarter of 2018.
Kingsman: The Golden CircleThis sequel to Kingsman: The Secret Service might lack the charm of the original film but it remains an enjoyable romp. Director Matthew Vaughn and his writing partner Jane Goldman fall into the trap of confusing more with better but this DayGlo spy spoof includes some suitably over-the-top actions scenes and a few laugh-out-loud moments. The disc offers a detailed image despite being restricted to a 2K digital intermediate but the addition of HDR and a wider colour gamut really suits the film's candy-coloured design. The Dolby Atmos object-based audio mix delivers the films bombastic soundtrack with style and perfectly compliments the less-than-subtle visuals. There's also a decent set of extras that includes a 9-part production documentary that overall makes this a great choice for fans of the franchise.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray now and you can buy it here.
Groundhog DayAs high concept comedies go, this 1993 film is a stone cold classic. A perfectly cast Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a weatherman who finds himself struck in the town of Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day and forced to live that day over and over again until he gets it right. Murray is on top form and supported by an able cast, resulting in a film that is both very clever and very funny. It was written and directed by the late Harold Ramis who, despite not always seeing eye-to-eye with his star, delivers a near-perfect film and even added a new expression to the English language. This Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, which was appropriately released on Groundhog Day, is based on a new 4K restoration of the camera negative by Sony Pictures, who have been doing some sterling work of late. There's a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack as well and an excellent selection of extras, making this a must have purchase for fans.
Groundhog Day is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray now and you can buy it here.
Blade Runner 2049Thirty five years after Blade Runner arrived in cinemas, director Denis Villeneuve manages the near impossible and delivers a sequel that is a worthy successor to the original. Blade Runner 2049 continues the story but adds its own mysteries, whilst also expanding and extrapolating the world of the original film in beautiful and interesting ways. The pace is deliberately slow but the film is one gorgeous set piece after another and the photography will hopefully win Roger Deakins a long-overdue Oscar. The Ultra HD Blu-ray looks simply stunning thanks to a 4K digital intermediate, HDR and a wider colour gamut. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack delivers the film's score and complex sound design with precision, complimenting the amazing visuals. There's also a good selection of extras including three short films that act as a prologue to the main story and a number of interesting featurettes. As a result Blade Runner 2049 is not only one of the best sequel ever made but also the first essential 4K disc purchase of the year.
Blade Runner 2049 is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray now and you can buy it here.
Thor: RagnarokThird time's a charm for the Thor franchise as the Norse god of thunder finds a sense of humour and the resulting film plays more like Guardians of the Galaxy than the Shakespearean approach taken by original director Kenneth Branagh. The success of Thor: Ragnarok is primarily thanks to director Taika Waititi who not only gives the franchise a fresh perspective but also voices one the film's funniest characters. Chris Hemsworth is clearly having more fun this time out and his double act with Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner/Hulk is a joy. There's an amazing supporting cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Hopkins and Jeff Goldblum, whilst Cate Blanchett makes for a great villain. The film used a 2K digital intermediate but, if the 4K disc release of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is anything to go by, Thor: Ragnarok can still look incredible, especially with HDR and wide colour gamut. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack should also be impressive and you can expect the usual Marvel extras like an audio commentary, gag reel, featurettes and deleted scenes.
Thor: Ragnarok is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from the 26th of February and you can buy it here.
JigsawWe may have thought that the Saw franchise had seen its own long-overdue death back in 2010 with the bandwagon jumping Saw 3D. The serial killer 'Jigsaw' had already been dead himself for a few films and the Saw franchise had descended into a less fun version of the Final Destination movies. However seven years is presumably considered long enough for a soft reboot these days and so we get new entry Jigsaw. The film doesn't add anything new and fans of the franchise will know exactly what to expect but at least the Ultra HD Blu-ray release does the movie justice. The film may have been finished using a 2K digital intermediate but the results still impress, largely thanks to HDR and a wider colour gamut. There's also Dolby Vision and a fantastic Dolby Atmos soundtrack that adds to the overall effect of the various torture porn kills. There's also an excellent set of extras including an audio commentary and an 82-minute documentary that looks at the legacy of the Saw franchise. Jigsaw might be an acquired taste but it's certainly a 4K release that fans will want to pick up.
Jigsaw is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from the 26th of February and you can buy it here.
Murder on the Orient ExpressKenneth Branagh's latest screen adaptation of Agatha Christie's famous whodunnit boasts lavish production values and a cast to die for... where presumably at least one of them will. Branagh not only directs but headlines the film as the famous Belgium detective Hercule Poirot, sporting the most impressive moustache in cinema history. He's ably supported by the likes of Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad and Penelope Cruz. Branagh shot Murder on the Orient Express using 65mm film and a 4K digital intermediate, so the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc should look spectacular, revealing every whisker in that magnificent moustache. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack should also impress and Branagh's audio commentaries are always worth a listen, so make sure you don't miss Murder on the Orient Express.
Murder on the Orient Express is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from the 5th of March and you can buy it here.
The Dark CrystalFor those of a certain vintage, The Dark Crystal will hold a special place in their hearts. At a time when fantasy wasn't well served by the film industry, Jim Henson and Frank Oz took what they had learnt with the Muppets and from the success of creating a believable live action character in Yoda for The Empire Strikes Back, and produce an entire film that only used puppets. It was ambitious to say the least, requiring Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz to help get it made but there's no denying the imagination on screen. The Dark Crystal struggled at the box office, in part due to the darker nature of the story, but mainly because 1982 was a particularly strong year for cinema releases. The lack of actual human characters probably didn't help either and Henson and Oz's next film, Labyrinth, would include real actors on screen in the form of Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie. However The Dark Crystal is now looked back on as something of a minor classic and groundbreaking in terms of its use of animatronics. This new Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Sony Pictures boasts a brand new 4K scan of the original camera negative, along with a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack and a host of extras, making this 4K disc release a must-have for fans of The Dark Crystal.
The Dark Crystal is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from the 5th of March.
Paddington 2Paddington was a genuine surprise when it came out in 2014, partly because of the last minute change in voice actor for Paddington himself but also because the trailers hadn't done a great job of promoting the film. However Paddington was a complete delight and Ben Whishaw was perfect as the voice of the little bear, making the decision to replace Colin Firth the right one. Paddington was a global hit, so a sequel was inevitable but it couldn't possibly live up to the original could it? You're damn right it could and Paddington 2 is a triumph that's as good as and possibly better than the original. This is in part due to a clever screenplay that contains plenty go jokes for all ages and a wonderfully positive message of tolerance and acceptance that is more important than ever these days. But mainly thanks to a career best performance from Hugh Grant as main villain Phoenix Buchanan, who steals every scene he's in. The Ultra HD Blu-ray is sure to look nice and the Dolby Atmos soundtrack should help deliver the slapstick and comedic set-pieces, whilst some interesting extras will round off a 4K package.
Paddington 2 is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from the 12th of March and you can buy it here.
Justice LeagueAlthough Justice League was a massive disappointment when it was finally released in November of last year, it's still one of the big 4K releases of the first quarter of 2018. Joss Whedon may have taken over the film from Zak Snyder due to personal tragedy but he reshot 40% of the movie in an effort to lighten the tone and delivered a studio-mandated two hour cut. The resulting film was messy, schizophrenic and frankly laughable thanks to Henry Cavill's wobbly top lip – where his Mission: Impossible – Fallout moustache had been digitally removed. DC fans will probably buy the disc more in the hope of a longer cut (like Batman v Superman) or at least plenty of deleted scenes showing Snyder's original footage. Sadly unlike Batman v Superman, which boasted a 4K digital intermediate, Justice League was finished at 2K but HDR and a wider colour gamut should help the Ultra HD Blu-ray deliver the brighter primaries used by Whedon. We suspect there won't be any complaints about the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which should ably replicate the bombastic soundtrack heard in cinemas. Although there's a very interesting story to tell about what exactly went wrong with Justice League, we suspect that extra features on the 4K disc will gloss over all the troubles, but you never know.
Justice League is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from the 26th of March and you can buy it here.
Star Wars: The Last JediStar Wars: The Last Jedi might be a disappointment to many hardcore fans but the film's arrival on Ultra HD Blu-ray is the biggest release of the first quarter. This will be the first Star Wars film to grace the 4K disc format and complaints about the plot and characterisations aside, the technical aspects of the production make it ideal. The film was shot at a number of resolutions, including 6.5K, and finished using a 4K digital intermediate, so it should look superb. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack should also be state-of-the-art, thus complimenting the equally as impressive visuals and effects. The full set of extras hasn't been announced yet but director Rian Johnson has already confirmed that the release will include 25 minutes of deleted scenes. Fans will no doubt pick this release up as soon as it hits stores but others might need a bit more convincing before returning to Disney's version of the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from the 26th of March and you can buy it here.
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