Unlike last year, this was a brave, bold, new world for me in terms of Blu-ray collecting. I upped my game as I stepped into the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray arena. I took on the combatants (HDMI handshake and audio sync issues being most problematic) like a champion and came out unscathed. You can read all about my trials and tribulations with my new 4K Ultra HD gear (my first setup) right here. Being the only reviewer on the staff here for a long time with 4K Ultra HD compatibility has been both a blessing and a curse. It put me in a situation of being the proprietary reviewer of all 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles (see an archive of reviews here). I have to admit though, it enables me to grow my 4K collection cost-effectively and an accelerated rate. So there’s always that. However, it does mean regardless of what title it is, you’re stuck with reviewing it no matter how painful the viewing experience is. I’m looking at you Ice Age: Collision Course (thank you Brandon), Independence Day: Resurgence, Warcraft and The Huntsman: Winter War. You have to be able to take the good with the bad and appreciate what you have in life. So that’s what I do!
There are pros and obviously cons about adopting a new format/technology. First of all you get instant bragging rights kind of like being the first kid on your block with that shiny new BMX bike (do they even care about that anymore in today’s day and age?). You also instantly feel a noble, almost kind of arrogant sense of entitlement and an elite status as one of the brave new pioneers ushering in a new age of how movies are presented in the home front. The elitist state of mind is solidified by being one of only a handful of reviewers out there getting access to such titles from the studios (in the beginning). The cons, however, will leave you a bit jaded. This past Black Friday I got to not only witness the TVs and 4K players significantly decrease in cost, but I saw most 4K Ultra HD titles slashed almost in half price-wise. I’m left thinking to myself if only I had waited six more months all the extra money I would of had. Truth be told, it probably would have all went into Black Friday sales acquiring said titles to feed my new 4K collection. In hindsight though I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I jumped on Blu-ray when it first came out in 2006 and 2016 was no different with the next evolution of the HD optical format. There’s also a shortage of titles that you would love to see on the new 4K format, but doesn’t that make the wait for them one day that much sweeter? I believe it does!
Since I have been the primary reviewer of 4K Ultra HD titles here (up until Brandon Peters recently took on a piece of the action) I thought how cool would it be to incorporate that into my annual Top 10 Blu-ray List. In fact, I took it a step further by upping the ante and declaring I want my list to be comprised of ONLY 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles. After all, I’m the sheriff around these parts so I can do whatever I damn well please. Therefore, I’ll make this disclaimer loud and clear now. The below Top 10 Blu-ray list will only contain titles released on the brand new (as of March 2016) 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. You will NOT see any regular 1080p Blu-ray sets mentioned below. Don’t fret though as my other reviewers will have you covered on that front throughout the week.
The bulk of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles down below are ones that I received to review and held onto. However, the others made their way into my 46+ 4K disc collection when they were either priced exceptionally well (on eBay or with Best Buy Reward Zone points) or simply “Day 1” titles that I just couldn’t live without (The Martian: Extended Cut instantly comes to mind). Once again, for this year’s TOP 10 list, I’m gonna make things super simple with the following criteria. The below 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles were all released in the calendar year of 2016 and are all housed in my personal collection. For one reason or another whether it be replay value, presentation, packaging or whatnot, they are my favorite 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays of 2016. So let me tell you why I selected the titles that I did down below.
LABYRINTH – 30TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Truth be told I somehow went my entire life without seeing Jim Henson’s Labyrinth on any incarnation of home media. That’s not a feat I am proud of. When the David Bowie star vehicle got announced for a 30th Anniversary Edition on the new 4K Ultra HD format I just knew I had to cease the day. After all, who can resist seeing what a younger, awkward version of Jennifer sConnelly looked like prior to the transformation of the gorgeous looking woman she grew up to be? I hope that doesn’t make me sound creepy because we are talking about a film that David Bowie does star in, dons a big package in his pants (is that bulge for real?) and belts out some of the weirdest musical numbers too. My first viewing of this ended with me not only becoming an instant fan of the film due to its creepiness and superior looking and sounding presentation on 4K Ultra HD, but also having Bowie’s infectious “Magic Dance” song stuck in my head for days. You’re welcome for the YouTube link!
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Labyrinth here.
Here’s the reboot to the legendary Ghostbusters franchise that seemingly no one wanted to see made including yours truly. I believed too many years had passed by to successfully bring the Ghostbusters back to the big screen without a reboot of sorts, but I was appalled when an all female cast was announced. Now I’m not trying to come across as being sexist, but I’m well aware that’s how my comment will probably come off as. However, it’s like being a conservative Republican. You just don’t want history and traditions tampered with. I could not have been more wrong about this one. Despite not wanting to see or support this all female reboot I went in free of as much bias as possible and came out a fan. I had been slimed! It’s a lot of fun, a better story than the original film in my opinion (origin, comedy, effects, etc.) and it simply looks scrumptious on the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. Sony did an awesome job packaging this one too as they not only give you the obligatory Blu-ray disc and redeemable Digital HD code, but they also took it a step further and provide you the Blu-ray 3D disc too all for one low price. This one comes highly recommended on the new 4K format for many reasons, which you can read all about in my review link down below.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Ghostbusters (2016) here.
The DC Extended Universe Collection:
BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
MAN OF STEEL
While the latter two titles ain’t the prettiest looking films on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman and Man of Steel‘s Dolby Atmos surround audio rivals the best of them out there. As an added bonus I love these superhero features themselves too. You hear that Shohan Cagle? I said the world “love” and Man of Steel in the same sentence. Who says people can’t change? For me there’s just something about this DC Universe that’s so much more appealing and thrilling over the Marvel counterpart (with the exception of Guardians). Furthermore, there’s no greater presentation of these films than on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. You want to see Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in 4K don’t you? Of course you do! Come baby. Come baby. Baby, come come.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Suicide Squad here.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition here.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Man of Steel here.
I don’t know what it is but I’m a sucker for paradise and beaches on the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. The way they are gorgeously captured and rendered on display in 4K in The Shallows makes me feel like I am there. Of course staring at Blake Lively in a bikini and a having a nail-biting, tension filled shark movie make for a good 4K watching experience any day of the week. Seriously though one of the most impressive qualities about this 4K Blu-ray release is its sound. This one contains perhaps the single greatest example of Dolby Atmos I have ever heard thus far in the home. There’s one scene where a dolphin jumps out of the water in the left channel and over my head (which is doubling for Blake Lively’s character at the moment) and splashes down into the water in the right channel. It just felt and sounded so surreal. Sadly we do not have a 4K UHD Blu-ray review to share with you for this title. However, fret not as Aaron has you covered with a movie review of it all here.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Make no mistake about it Warner Bros’ Mad Max: Fury Road was going into my 4K collection despite my peer reviewers’ disdain for its video presentation. I’ll get to that in a moment, but for now know this. As evident by my Top 10 Film List here Mad Max: Fury Road was my absolute favorite film of 2015. I have seen it way too many times theatrically for it not to be. The high octane action literally took my breath away. I used the slow emotional scenes to catch it back. If that’s not movie magic, then I don’t know what is. Oh yeah there’s also those death defying stunts on display throughout not to mention a story full of hope and redemption. If George Miller never follows this up with a sequel, I’m more than happy with what I have here to treasure for all time. So I did mention negative reviews on the 4K Ultra HD format. They stem from the fact that many reviewers have problems with how fake the fire and explosions look upscaled in 4K resolution. Get over it. The fine detail in this 4K presentation will scorch your eyes and etch in your retinas. You see levels of detail in the 4k presentation unfathomable on the Blu-ray format not to mention that insane Dolby Atmos surround audio. However, this one is night and day superior over the Blu-ray in its use of HDR in the night sequences. Holy hell it looks like a different film over its Blu-ray counterpart. It’s that much more amazing. Sadly we do not have a 4K UHD Blu-ray review to share with you for this title. However, fret not as I have you covered with a movie review here and my 1080p Blu-ray review of it all here. Whatever you do stay away from that Black & Chrome version I reviewed here.
Sicario is one of those titles that when I learned about it I immediately fist pumped the air and screamed “oh hell yeah.” There was just something about the theatrical trailer (in particular that shocking hallway of dead bodies behind the walls), never mind my love for Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, that instantly sucked me in and had me believing without a shadow of a doubt that I was really going to love this one. I was so right about things too as Sicario ended up on my Top 10 List of films last year. I was equally excited to see this title announced for Lionsgate’s first wave of films on the new UHD format, but pessimistic too. How good would a movie of this caliber look in 4K? I’m here to tell you it looks like a million bucks. It’s one of my favorite looking 4K titles in my collection thus far. The razor sharp grittiness of it all leaves me in awe and jaw dropped every time I put it in (the UHD disc in the 4K player that is). Don’t be surprised if our next male Chihuahua gets named Sicario. I’m just saying. The name fits the breed. Sadly we do not have a 4K UHD Blu-ray review to share with you for this title, but we do have a movie review from yours truly over here to check out.
THE MARTIAN: EXTENDED EDITION
The Martian is one of the quickest titles to see a double dip this year on the 4K Ultra HD format, dubbed The Martian: Extended Edition. However, I don’t mind because not only does this give us the Extended cut of the film in 4K, but it also comes with a Ridley Scott commentary and Dolby Atmos surround track to boot. Therefore, how can you be mad at Fox for releasing this? Luckily for me I did not buy the first 4K release of the theatrical version so this was ideal timing as I was just entering into the new format. More importantly though is this one looks like a million bucks from the details and glossiness of the astronauts’ helmets and suits to the HDR infused nighttime skylines on the Martian planet. This was one of the first 4K discs I consumed multiple spins with this past summer. While we do not have a 4K UHD Blu-ray review to share with you for this title you can read all about this 1080p Blu-ray review courtesy of Aaron’s review here.
The New STAR TREK Film Collection:
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
STAR TREK BEYOND
I wanted to list only Star Trek Into Darkness since that’s my favorite out of the three new franchise films (despite everyone’s hatred of it), but I felt reluctant to do so since everyone simply adores the first and third entries. However, let’s face the facts. All of three of these entries look stellar on the new 4K Ultra HD format. There’s really nothing I can ding any of them on with the exception of their bad cover choices (most notably the eyes of James T. Kirk), but I digress. Instead let me shift my focus here now to my favorite title, Into Darkness. As I described in my 4K Blu-ray review of it the presentation is reference in every which way from the Dolby Atmos surround audio to the breathtaking IMAX shifting aspect ratios (sadly the other two 4K titles don’t have this). It was the first 4K Ultra HD title I had watched that was a perfect 5 out of 5 for audio and video and up until the below titles were released it was the high bar by which I set my grading according to. There’s nothing more spectacular than that opening scene where we see Kirk and Bones run through that pinkish/reddish vegetation in stunning 4K resolution complete with the full IMAX aspect ratio and HDR color grading. It’s simply out of this world (pun very much intended)!
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Star Trek here.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Star Trek Into Darkness here.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Star Trek Beyond here.
You know how when you go to a KISS concert (you may not know this Aaron) the announcer comes on prior to the band taking the stage and over the loudspeaker he speaks the following words with authority. “You wanted the best. You got the best. The hottest band in the world. KISS!” Well that’s the exact kind of the sentiment here with Pacific Rim on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. Warner Bros. have knocked it out of the park with their last three rounds of catalog releases on the new format and Pacific Rim takes the cake for being the best of them all. There’s so many reason why you should love Pacific Rim as a film in itself, but add on top of that one of the finest A/V presentations (keep in mind colors are a bit vivid with flushed skin tones) on the 4K Ultra HD format and you got the winning lottery ticket inside a black clamshell case. There’s a reason why you walk into any serious A/V sales room and they have Pacific Rim in their Blu-ray player ready to show off their finest speaker packages. It’s because this Dolby Atmos will literally chip the paint off your walls. Make sure all your fragile and trinkets are secure because the LFE takes no prisoners here. Kudos to Warner Bros. for doing this one justice in 4K.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Pacific Rim here.
God in a clamshell case!
Yep. That’s right. I officially dub Universal’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Lucy “God in a clamshell case.” You religious zealots can hate me all you want for taking your Lord’s name in vain. I don’t care. Truth be told I am not the biggest fan of Lucy either. I sort of disliked it the first time I saw it theatrically. Try as I might you can’t convince me that Lucy has a feel good ending to it. Yes it’s evolution, but it’s not the ending I want. Even the trailers mislead the masses thinking they were going in for a wild, action, thrill ride, not some warped mind trip. However, I digress. I’m not here to talk about whether or not Lucy is a good film or whether you like it or not. Repeat viewings have made me appreciate Lucy for the gem of a film it is. Then came this 4K Universal Blu-ray release of it. I had many reservations after Universal managed to botch up one of my favorite films on the 4K format, Oblivion, but Amazon had it on sale, I took the bait and Lucy has since gone on my holy altar of 4K titles. The stunning 4K video presentation coupled with the bombastic Dolby Atmos surround track is like none other here. Pacific Rim comes close, but Lucy will always have that special spot in my heart as my first crush on the new 4K Ultra HD format. This is a mandatory title that you MUST-OWN in your collection. If nothing else, it gives you a reason to gaze upon Scarlett Johansson with 4K eyes. That ain’t that awful is it? I suppose a 2K DI upscaled 4K Ultra HD release of Under The Skin is out of the question, eh?
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Lucy here.
Last but not least I thought it would only be fair to mention several titles that did not make the cut for my Top 10 list up above, but are still excellent choices as stocking stuffers for your loved ones this holiday season to grow and enrich their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray collection with. Please join me in congratulating the below Honorable Mention titles on the new format for their outstanding A/V presentations.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Jason Bourne here.
Check out our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Goodfellas here.
DISCLAIMER: The majority of the above 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews were judged and graded using the following 4K certified A/V gear found here. Make sure to check out all our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews archived right here for your convenience. Thank you!
So I’m hoping curiosity has gotten the best of you. Therefore, I encourage you all to ask any questions you may have regarding these 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles down below in the comments. If you own an Ultra HD Blu-ray player (there are so many more choices available now than when I first entered the scene this past June), I encourage you all to click on however many of the covers above you feel is necessary and feed your personal collection today with both knowledge and of course 4K product. Your support is very much appreciated and helps us keep this site running smooth and effectively.
To all my staff and readers across the globe here, thank you all for another blessed year full of some of the best Blu-ray review coverage (now in 4K too) available on the World Wide Web. In fact, we dare you to take the Blu-ray challenge and compare some of the above Blu-ray reviews against our competitors. I’m pretty sure you’ll come around to our way of thinking, but nevertheless, Happy Holidays!