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War Dogs (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

War DogsI wasn’t able to get to War Dogs this past summer when it released to theaters.  And I was interested in checking it out theatrically.  There were a lot of factors that appealed to me.  Miles Teller and Jonah Hill seemed like a natural and exciting team up.  Todd Phillips is also a pretty good and overlooked director and seemed to be using his talents for something new.  It also looked like a piece of cinema akin to the Pain and Gain and The Wolf Of Wall Street type of movies.  Oh, and it had a true story aspect with a topic that I kind of was interested in learning more about how this all actually happened.  Well, I was able to check it out on this new 4K UHD Blu-ray that just released this week from Warner Bros.

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Film 

Based on a true story, “War Dogs” follows two friends in their early 20s living in Miami Beach during the Iraq War who exploit a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on U.S. Military contracts. Starting small, they begin raking in big money and are living the high life. But the pair gets in over their heads when they land a 300 million dollar deal to arm the Afghan Military—a deal that puts them in business with some very shady people, not the least of which turns out to be the U.S. Government.

Put quite simply, War Dogs is the more youthful and stoner version of 2005’s Lord of War that starred Nicolas Cage and Jared Leto.  Like that Andrew Niccol film, Todd Phillips tackles the subject matter of illegal arms dealing to military and such.  This one is based on a true story though, inspired by a Rolling Stone article about these two kids that sold Chinese made AK-47 rounds to the US army.

Right off the bat, yo get a strike on the film, with a voice over, but its all right.  The funny thing is, that Miles Teller and Jonah Hill have quite similar voices, so it takes a second to figure out which one is telling the story or the “how to feels” to us.  Teller is strong as normal and both he and Hill do share quite good a chemistry that I’d like to see them team up again for a hopefully better movie.  They both are able to pull their comedic side, but also harness it with the fantastic dramatic skills both have picked up along the way.  I especially appreciate how Jonah Hill has been able to take his schtick or more common persona from comedies and channeled it into dramatics, even in some intimidating, evil fashion.

Some side players put in some decent work as well.  Bradley Cooper shows up for the cameo in a very Bradley Cooper kinda role.  I was surprisingly impressed with Ana de Armas, who is someone I didn’t know much about going into this.  But, she has a way of commanding a frame and getting your full attention.  Yes, she’s easy on the eyes and has a stunning gaze, but she’s able to put up the chops to handle someone who is the top of his craft for his age in Teller, and that’s pretty impressive.  Patrick St Esprit has a brief turn as an army general, but damn if the man isn’t completely genuine.  For such a small role, he’s so good it almost feels like they just asked a real general to do some lines and he was able to comply.

Todd Phillips’ War Dogs is all right.  Its just there in the middle.  The film has some merit, but overall its sorta everything you could’ve guessed it was by watching the trailer.  What’s weird is that they have a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera, but they just managed to deliver something really average.  Definitely something that’s on the rental side of recommending.

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Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail:  Popping it in for comparison, War Dogs actually sports a pretty impressive image for its standard Blu-ray release.  This 4K UHD is a step up, but I’d have to be honest and say its a little 50/50.  But, the 50 when it is on, its really on.  Daytime and really well lit scenes provide some really good, popping, crisp, sharp imagery that gives you what you want from the format.  There are also moments of color that you just obviously know that’s the great HDR at work.  Details are very strong here, and the darker lit and nighttime scenes are much more defined than its counterpart.  Its a really tiny thing, but one point that impressed me the most were two instances that featured just the tiniest bit of light.  During a pitch black scene in a city from the distance, you could make out 3 really distant windows with the light on and also in another desert night sequence, you could see the tail lights from a vehicle very far away.  These almost looks like a pixel issue, but were just straight up 2160p and the HDR working in tandem to deliver greatness.

Depth:  Depth is pretty solid here (Even though the Blu-ray is pretty impressive).  Everyone here moves smoothly with some good confidence and free ability in the characters and vehicles.  Dimensionally, it see a good appeal in the distance work as well.  Foreground  and background have a decent distant relationship from one another.  Background imagery is clean and crisp and pretty discernible even at times where the focus really is not allowing for it.  No, this isn’t some 3-D experience, but it does the job and finds itself being a marginal step up from the format below it.

Black Levels:  Blacks are pretty deep and kinda murky at times.  There are some dark interior scenes that look a little cloudy.  They are deep and rich, containing plenty of details not seen in the standard Blu-ray release’s image.  There are also some good shadows, shading and help with definition in this picture as well.  Details on dark hair, dark colored surfaces and clothes prove to come through and be noticeable in texture, frizziness and patterns in fabrics.  No crushing was seen in this viewing for the review.

Color Reproduction:  There are a lot of normal colors used in the film, but it does display some impressive primaries.  Blue is a strong color and does look quite good and natural when it takes over Albania.  While that is a cold, colorless time in the film, it does appear quite rich and well saturated with the colors it does have.  In the desert areas that golden filter going over everything gives it a nice luster.  There are some good uses of reds and such and the standout moments really occur when scenes are taking place in some striking daylight and well lit sequences allowing the HDR to pump out the goodness.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones have some differentiating temperatures due to the change in local (Iraq – warm, Albania-cold), but they do keep a consistent appearance throughout the duration of every environment/location.  Facial details are pretty incredible.  Stubble is crisp and noticeable by the follicle, the spray on tans are incredibly obvious to where you can see spots that didn’t get hit by the spray and the normal moles, scars, wrinkles and stuff come through quite nicely from any distance (Especially in well lit scenes).  Facial bruises, dried blood and blemishes from beatings look impressive and clean.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Descriptive Audio (US), English Descriptive Audio (UK), French (Canada) 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, German 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Casitlian) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital.

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Italian SDH, Dutch, Mandarin (Simple), Mandarin (Traditional), Korean, Spanish (Latin), Portuguese, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish

Dynamics: War Dogs features a solid 5.1 DTS-HD MA track.  Sounds are well defined with layered detail on gunfire, lock and loading, desk sounds (writing, drawers opening & shutting) and the like.  There is a good balance in this mix between the vocals, effects and score.  As a matter of fact, there are a lot of songs used in the film, and they take front and center and sound quite beautiful.  There’s a moment with an acoustic performance of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” that sounded gorgeous (I was sad that people started talking and having a scene over it).  Overall, this does the job very good, but isn’t the most immersive or wow’ing experience to have on 4K UHD.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  The subwoofer gets some good hard, deep work in.  Gun fire, explosions, big engines humming, doors slamming, and club dance bass all thump through this film.  Its fun, bouncy and lively, shaking the room when necessary.

Surround Sound Presentation:  All five channels get some solid use, but I feel the rear speakers could have been used a bit more.  Its a solid, engaging experience that utilizes everything and

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp and clear.  The film’s characters are very loud people and they are well represented here.  The voice over also has great clarity.

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Extras 

War Dogs comes with the Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

General Phillips: Boots On the Ground (HD, 8:38) – An EPK piece that goes over where the story came from and does the usual fluffing with Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.

Access Granted (HD, 10:08) – The real life David Packouz as well as Todd Phillips and others involved with the film discuss adapting the Rolling Stone article and story into the film.  Also gives some real life anecdotes from David about the true stuff.

Pentagon Pie (HD, 2:49) – An animated version of Efraim’s explanation to David about how they were going to go about to make big bucks.

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Summary 

War Dogs is all right, but as I mentioned before, aside from the quirky goofy story this is based off of, it just kept making me remember how terrific Lord Of War was.  This 4K UHD Blu-ray comes with a a sorta 50/50 picture quality where, overall its terrific, but the HDR moments you really want are about half the time.  The audio here is more than solid as well.  The bonus features are a yawn.  If you dig the film, I’d wait for it to go for a decent price on sale down the line.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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