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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > Drama > Religion > Terrorism > Murder > Codes > Martial Arts Cycle > Fantasy > China > Ho > Angels & Demons (2009)/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)/The Da Vinci Code (2006/all Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Sets)/The Hills Have Eyes (1977/MVD Visual/Arrow Limited Edition Blu-ray)

Angels & Demons (2009)/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)/The Da Vinci Code (2006/all Sony 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray Sets)/The Hills Have Eyes (1977/MVD Visual/Arrow Limited Edition Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A-/B+/A- Picture: B+/B/B/B Sound: A- & B+/B+ & B/B+ & B/B- Extras: B-/C/B-/B+ Films: C+/C/C+/B

Next up are four classic thrillers in remarkably upgraded editions that make all predecessors obsolete, loaded with extras and with playback performance (audio and image) that will stun even the biggest fans of the following...

I will cover these slightly out of order, but know we have covered all for films before. Ron Howard's The Da Vinci Code (2006) is the huge hit film off of the huge hot book we've reviewed a few times, including my coverage of an old DVD set a while ago here...


I give author Dan Brown for thinking up all of this fictional symbolism and the Howard/Hanks team have turned it all into a sort of intellectual Indiana Jones, but one can only take so much of it if one is not a fan. Still, you can see how an international blockbuster would rightly (sequel on the way or not) become an early 4K back catalog title as deluxe as possible, consisting of 3 discs!

Howard's Angels & Demons (2009) was no major improvement overall, but it was still a worthy sequel (though the book was actually a prequel) despite the mixed critical and commercial responses. I reviewed it here...


It is at least consistent within the logic of its own world, something they try to continue in the third film in the series, Inferno (2016), now reviewed on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray here...


Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) was the huge-if-overrated hit that pulled off for many the contradiction of the 'classy' kung-fu film, but I was no fan despite a likable cast who in retrospect sold the film better than they got credit for...


I was never happy with the many transfers of this film before, like it or not, so I can now show friends this version and explain more clearly why I am not a fan (ha) as Lee always makes the oddest errors, mistakes and missteps of any major director today. Still, now you can see what all were really intending.

Extras with all three Sony 4K releases include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-rays add extras from their previous incarnations. Code repeats older extras on a second Blu-ray disc with The first day on the Set with Ron Howard, Director Ron Howard introducing the film & the excitement of beginning production at the Louvre in Paris, the following ten featurettes: ''The Da Vinci Code'' author Dan Brown, A Portrait of Langdon, Who is Sophie Neveu?, Unusual Suspects, Magical Places, Close-up on Mona Lisa, The Filmmaking Experience Part 1 - Includes a DVD exclusive look at filming the last and revealing scene, The Filmmaking Experience Part 2, The Codes of "The Da Vinci Code" and The Music of "The Da Vinci Code". A third Blu-ray adds a new Teaser, new Trailer, Extended Cut Scenes in longer versions than seen in the longer final cut, an Audio Commentary track and new look at Inferno, the third film in this series as now linked above.

Angels repeats its seven making-of featurettes (Rome Was Not Built In A Day, Writing Angels & Demons, Characters In Search Of The True Story, CERN: Pushing The Frontiers Of Knowledge, Handling Props, Angels & Demons: The Full Story and This Is An Ambigram), Theatrical Trailers and a look at Inferno as well. Tiger repeats a commentary by Lee & Co-writer James Schamus, Unleashing The Dragon making-of featurette and on-camera Yeoh interview, then adds a new Lee intro, Music Video, Theatrical Trailer, six never-before-released Deleted Scenes and a new retrospective look at the film by Lee, Schamus and Editor Tim Squyres.

Last but absolutely not least is a true horror classic, Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes (1977), a original masterwork of terror that is one of the rare classics that spawned a worthy, memorable remake. However, the original is still king, my favorite film here and we reviewed an earlier Blu-ray release here...


What strikes me again watching this film is how casual it is, building suspense in indirect ways that work and match the laidback attitude of the time. It can be a time capsule, yet the terror and fighting is as relevant and as effective as ever. Even after it has a remake, a sequel and the sequel has a remake, it is easy to say this film is still a bit underrated and deserves more credit than it gets. That I why this new set is such an event in restoring and preserving the film.

Extras in this solid slipcase packaging include a highly quality paper foldout poster and high quality printed 40-page booklet on the film including informative text, illustrations and two essays. There is a reversible cover for the clear Blu-ray case, which contains six postcard-sized poster cards (double sided too), while the Blu-ray repeats the feature length audio commentary by Craven and Producer Peter Locke, Looking Back At The Hills Have Eyes featurette, theatrical trailers, TV spots, an alternate ending now retransferred in HD and a Behind The Scenes Image Gallery. New extras include two new feature length audio commentary tracks (one by actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lainer & Martin Speer, the other with film scholar Mikel J. Koven) and two new Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes: an on-camera Martin Speer interview dubbed Family Business and The Desert Sessions, an informative interview with composer Don Peake.

The 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced 2.35 X 1 Ultra High Definition images from Da Vinci, Angels and Tiger all have demo moments, were all shot in the Super 35mm film format and all outdo their 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition standard Blu-ray image transfers that are far superior to all previous releases of the film on home video of any kind, but Angels has a slight edge in 4K being the newest of the three. Tiger needed the upgrade the most and Da Vinci benefits the most from the upgrade versus its 1080p version and from the fancy film stocks (like Kodak Expression film) only it used. Da Vinci and Angels are both lensed by Howard's most successful pairing with a Director of Photography, Salvatore Totino, A.S.C., who will be back on the all-digital Inferno shoot. Rarely if at all do the 35mm materials show their age, so cheers to Sony's amazing work on all three throughout.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Eyes is also as impressive more than you would expect, a huge upgrade from the older Blu-ray that had color, detail and depth issues. This time, quality 35mm copies from the original (and lost (for now?)) 16mm camera materials have been scanned at 4K and the results will shock many. You can occasionally see the age of the materials used, but we also get the full color range of the film, highly improved depth, highly improved detail and more image in all four corners of the frame. Being one of the most important 16mm feature films ever made, up there with the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (improved even over the older photochemical restoration, reviewed elsewhere on this site), Ganja & Hess (restored with the same kind of materials this was) and The Harder They Come (which has an odd new HD upgrade where they messed it up), it is highly welcome and will reenforce 16mm film as a great format, great professional format and an underrated one. All this makes the terror and suspense more vivid too, so even non-fans beed to see this one.

As for sound, Da Vinci, Angels and Tiger all offer upgraded Dolby Atmos 11.1 lossless mixes (with Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixdowns for those without Atmos in their home theater system) that bring out the best in all the soundtracks presented. The older Tiger Blu-ray we covered had a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that was disappointing, so later Blu-rays offered a slightly better DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, but this new Atmos mix finally opens up the original theatrical sound as well as it ever will be. Not bad for a 5.1 movie.

Da Vinci is very well mixed and presented in Atmos, but Angels in Atmos is the sonic champ on this list with the most detail, depth, articulation and range. Da Vinci offers a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on its 1080p Blu-ray that continues to be impressive for what it is, but it cannot totally compete with the Atmos. Angels is lossless Dolby formats all the way, with its 1080p Blu-ray offering Dolby TrueHD 7.1. Its all enough to get you to buy a new receiver if you don't have Atmos or DTS: X.

As for Eyes, the older Blu-ray offered a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 6.1 lossless mix that was slightly better than the same old disc's PCM 2.0 Mono, but the new PCM 2.0 Mono upgrade by Arrow (et al) far outperforms both older tracks with very clean and clear playback for its age and low budget. I have never heard the film (or many films of its kind and type from its era) sound so good. This is the kind of work you expect from Criterion or a major studio, but this is what Arrow keeps delivering. Just as impressive in its own way and now the only way to really experience this film.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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