Goodfellas (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Goodfellas-4K Thumb4K UHD has been impressing me along the way this year.  One thing I really want to see more of on the format are classic films.  I know new films are going to look shiny, new and vibrant.  But, what I really want to see is how the vintage stuff is going to look and improve when done right.  Just a few months ago, I was downright disappointed when Sony released yet another version of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (One of the greatest Blu-ray transfers of all time) on regular Blu-ray when they actually do have a 4K remaster just sitting there waiting.  Thankfully, Warner Bros didn’t let me down.  Like usual, when a new format drops, here comes Goodfellas.  Last year, you’ll remember they release a Blu-ray sourced from a 4K remaster…well…here’s what said master actually looks like now.  I couldn’t be more excited to be revisiting this film and transfer just a year later.

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GoodFellas explores the criminal life like no other movie. Following the rise and fall of a trio of gangsters over 30 years, its an electrifying, fact-inspired tale of living and dying. Based on the true-life best seller Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, the film earned six Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director and was named 1990s Best Film by the New York, Los Angeles and National Society of Film Critics. In 2000, GoodFellas was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress.

When it comes to the essentials, in terms of mob films, of course the go to is always Francis Ford Coppola’s first two Godfather films.  But, since its release in 1990, GoodFellas has constantly challenged that mantle.  Whether or not its better is besides the point.  When you can have yourself constantly brought up whenever The Godfather is mentioned, you’re doing quite all right.  The voices in approval may never approach the pair of 70s film’s consensus and it doesn’t have to.  GoodFellas adds, follows, pays tribute to and is just an overall outstanding experience in American filmmaking from one of  cinema’s great auteurs.

Right off the bat, this film takes a genre you’ve already been made familiar with it, but spruces it up with a fresh take and an enthusiastic voice.  While looking at it today, newcomers may not be able to appreciate it’s originality in technical areas.  This film’s storytelling, editing and feel breathed a whole new life into the mob movie.  Its not worried about being safe and “prestigious”, more focused on some energy, looseness and being a bit more “modern” with its characters and dialogue.  In turn, by setting this precedent, it in itself is forming its own prestige.  What Scorsese does here with GoodFellas is still making its waves today.  From Quentin Tarantino to The Sopranos (Seriously, its GoodFellas: The Series and in hindsight the movie looks like an audition for the show for many actors), you can see the love, inspiration and influence its had on not only its genre, but others and many filmmakers as well.  Heck, even Scorsese seemed to channel back to this movie with The Wolf Of Wall Street.

This movie felt like it should have launched Ray Liotta into super-stardom.  GoodFellas would have been the two punch to Field of Dreams the year prior’s one.  He’s pretty terrific here, and full embodiment of a performance.  Maybe its because he’s primarily an observer until the final twenty minutes that make it feel like he’s in the shadows even though he’s our guide.  He’s always observing some more interesting, unpredictable and intriguing characters instead of being his own.  Whether it be Joe Pesci’s batshit crazy Tommy, De Niro’s Jimmy or his crazy wife in a terrifically entertaining turn by Lorraine Bracco.  We’re with Henry and watching moreso than really noticing him.  Or, it could be Liotta’s movie choices following didn’t lead to outstanding merits (Hello, Dumbo Drop!).  He’s still a steadily busy working actor today in a range of low profile to high profile projects.  So, he’s doing fine.  And that De Niro cat…well…we’ll see if he takes off one of these days finally (wink).

While I fancy myself a Godfather man, GoodFellas is still a sensational movie and worthy of being held up with it.  It’s not just a great mob movie, its a great movie period.  One of the finest and most notable films from cinematic legend, Martin Scorsese.  Its twenty five years old this year and it still feels like it could hold its own with any film today as is.  The film runs the gamut on the great films checklist and has pretty much everything covered, from the acting, direction, costuming, editing, script, you name it.  Oh yeah, forgot to mention, this film is incredibly quotable.  You know, like “F*** you, pay me!”

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Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail:  Goodfellas was restored and remastered for 4K last year and released on a terrific Blu-ray. Now we truly get to see what that is all about.  And, the result is in and DAMN.  This was such a great job, I felt like had never really seen Goodfellas before.  Right away, the use of colors and definition to the picture gave way to the period piece aesthetic that really never had shown through like it did here.  There’s a sort of Norman Rockwell painting feel to the scenes in the 50s and 60s that evoke a vibe I never felt.  A sort of satirical, dark voice to lend to the story.  HDR’s use of color really completes and livens things up.  The image feels more 3 dimensional and present.  If you want one moment in the film to fully convince you to purchase this or to get you on board with 4K UHD (especially on classic cinema), look no further than the famous sequence where Henry walks across the street and pistol whips the hell out of Karen’s sexually assaulting neighbor.  Its full of a wide range of full and lively colors from plant leaves to grass, to the cars (Which look better than ever before in the movie), clothing (His leather jacket is primo), blood, sky…you name it.  On top of that the movement, the camera work is so loose, free and immersive.  The scene is a violent piece of beauty from one of cinema’s all time masters and it just now shows even better than whatever we could have ever imagined as “perfect” before.

Depth:  Depth work here is incredibly impressive.  Movements are even more fluid, clear and free for all the characters.  Where you’ll most see the improvement and be impress is during a lot the long take steady cam/hand held shots that sweep through the clubs and into the back rooms and kitchens which now appear more smooth, deeper and larger than life.  Distance feels much better and a big uptick even in this new presentation over the already impressive Blu-ray from last year.

Black Levels:  Blacks are much deeper, more refined here in this 4K UHD presentation.  There are fine details that also prod through that weren’t outright visible before.  Dark clothing shows little specs of dirt, patterns, frays and more.  Hair follicles (I mean, its a mob movie, everyone is jet black) are much more pronounced, frizzled and discernible.

Color Reproduction:  HDR is in full effect, but not necessarily in a vivid, eye blinding way.  The colors are saturated extremely well here, appearing, bold, full and making clothing and objects look damn near touchable.  Reds and blues come off extremely well.  More extravagantly colored plants, clothing, carpets and lights all kick things way up in terms of being well received and improved.  Colors are strong here and in a way that best fits the movie and make it look brand new…or…the way it was always intended to be.

Flesh Tones:  Different eras in the film’s timeline evoke different lighting on the skin tones for people, but they maintain appearances consistently through them.  Visible at most distances are make-up lines, pores, stubble, acne scars, dried blood, facial lines, wrinkles, you name it.  Close-ups and medium shots in the movie prove to be extremely impressive.

Noise/Artifacts:  Goodfellas maintains its grain intact, but its never distracting and just a piece of the picture.  Overall, it has a crisp clean image.  No defects of any sort to report here.

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 2.0 Dolby Digital, Czech 2.0 Dolby Digital, Hungarian 2.0 Dolby Digital, Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Russian 2.0 Dolby Digital, Thai 2.0 Dolby Digital, Turkish 2.0 Dolby Digital, Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital (Not listed on menu, only through accessible by surfing audio)

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Spanish SDH, Portuguese, Japanese, German SDH, Cantonese, Czech, Dutch, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian SDH, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Thai, Turkish

Dynamics:  I’m pretty sure there’s been nothing done here with the 5.1 mix for the movie, just the video transfer.  Its a great track that keeps you on your toes by being loud, abrupt and constantly rocking itself out.  There was nothing really wrong with it on the previous releases, so why fix or redo anything.  Its hard to imagine the film really sounding better than this.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  Punches, crashes and gunshots get a boost that could cause you to have a little bit of a jolt.  The songs in the film and engines humming also get some love from the sub.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Some decent stuff here.  The club scenes get some good ambiance and character from the rear speakers.  Front channels give a great depiction of the action onscreen via movement or volume placement in the mix.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and clear.  The narration is a few ticks louder than everything else, as expected.

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Goodfellas comes with the 2-Disc Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.  The bonus materials can be found on the second disc of the Blu-ray.  For a review of those supplements click HERE.

Audio Commentary

  • By Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Nicholas Pileggi, Michael Ballhaus and Thelma Schoonmaker
  • By Henry Hill and Ed McDonald

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I’ll say it again, but this was like watching Goodfellas for the first time again.  4K UHD has brought in a whole new (Or probably the intended) look to the film.  And its all on the video and perfect use of HDR.  With the audio and extras the same, you’ll find this decision based completely on the new video presentation.  And with what I’ve seen, its a no-brainer.  Not only is Goodfellas a must in any film collection, this edition is a must have for the 4K UHD Blu-ray format.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

6 Responses to “Goodfellas (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)”

  1. killermike2178

    Inquiring minds want to know, Brandon: What equipment/setup did you use for this review?

  2. Brandon Peters

    No problem. Here is what I used for the review.

    Samsung UN55KS8000
    Samsung UBD-K8500
    Onkyo TX-SR444

  3. killermike2178

    Awesome! Thank you for your prompt reply! You, good sir, are a gentleman and a scholar! 😉

  4. Brandon Peters

    Thank you! I appreciate the read and the interest in our site.

  5. Barry Hilton

    Looking foreword to this, one of my all time favourite movies. Got it on order.

  6. Bobby Peru

    The HDR on this disc is insufferable. Avoid at all costs.