- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A recent pair of 4K UHD releases showcase the visual and aural power of the ultra high-definition format.

Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 107 minutes, 2.40:1, $29.99) — Director Peter Berg’s biographical disaster film that acted as a cautionary tale to corporate greed arrives in stunning ultra high-definition format to chronicle the beginnings of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Specifically, Mr. Berg dives into the events surrounding the real story of the destruction of a floating semi-submersible, oil-drilling rig off the Louisiana coast caused by the overconfidence of BP and Transocean executives and their cost-cutting measures.

The events found a crew of 126 forced into an unmanageable situation of survival as they attempt to evacuate the rig amidst gushing oil, disintegrating steel and a fire that ultimately cost the lives of 11 members of the team.

The majority of the movie features an explosively stunning denouement sure to cause viewers to grip their seats, but clocking in at less than two hours, the film leaves little time for the development of some of the key and heroic characters.

The ensemble cast includes Mark Wahlberg as chief electronics technician Mike Williams; Kurt Russell as crew boss and offshore installation manager Jimmy Harrell (Mr. Jimmy); Gina Rodriguez as dynamic positioning operator Andrea Fleytas; Kate Hudson as Mr. Williams’ wife Felicia, and John Malkovich, dripping with a Louisiana drawl, as the troublemaking BP executive, Donald Vidrine.

4K UHD in action: This ultra high-definition release fueled by high-dynamic range technology delivers a stunning study in fire as owners watch a visual smorgasbord of molten metal, smoldering embers, dancing flames and billows of blackened smoke particles nearly pop from their home theater screens as the disaster unfolds.

Equally impressive is listening to the rig collapse within the Dolby Atmos sound mix. It will literally stress the viewer out as he gets aurally assaulted with the rumbling and spewing of the crumbling structure and the jarring explosions. It’s one of the most uncomfortable barrages of sound I have felt within the Atmos realm.

On a more unsettling note, I found experiencing in 4K UHD the detailed injuries suffered by Mr. Russell’s character, including bleeding abrasions, facial swelling, parts of a shower wall embedded in his torso, various blood stains and watching him pluck a piece of metal from his foot, too nauseating lifelike.

Best extras: In one of the firsts that I have seen in the new format, all of the extras are available on the 4K UHD disc and do not require a viewer to switch to the Blu-ray disc, also found in the package.

First worth watching is a 27-minute look on recreating the Deepwater Horizon structure. It required 2 million pounds of steel and 64 trucks of cement and, once completed, stood 82 feet off of the ground. Lots of interesting nuggets from the production designers, art director and a very serious Mr. Berg help explain the engineering feat. Also, viewers learn through the special-effects team that some of the intense fires were created using massive LED screens to show walls of flames.

Next, I felt pretty proud to be an American after watching 16-minutes of eight promotional vignettes that pay tribute to U.S. workers. They include interviews with a Deepwater survivor/firefighter, a New York City ironworker, an electrical lineman, a longshoreman and a logger.

Additionally, owners will find roughly 70 minutes of interviews with the main cast and crew, including Mr. Wahlberg, Mr. Russell, Mr. Malkovich and Miss Hudson with even a lengthy spotlight on the director.

And, for the daring, tech-savvy viewer, download the Deepwater Horizon VR app to a smartphone and buy a VR compatible headset (priced as low as $15) to view the next generation of behind-the-scenes extras.

Specifically, owners pop their phone in the headset and get a virtual reality experience as they watch a few scenes of the film while literally in between the director and editor Colby Parker Jr. in a theater-seating setting.

Look to the right to see Mr. Berg, look to the left to see Mr. Parker, and look center to view the movie as they discuss the production. It reminded me of a 360-degree video version of a Viewmaster with sound.

It’s an impressive presentation and offers great potential for immersively learning about making a major motion picture.

Jason Bourne (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 123 minutes, 2.39:1, $26.99) — Director Paul Greengrass teamed up again with actor Matt Damon to highlight an adventure of author Robert Ludlum’s most deadly CIA asset, who now has a fully restored memory and is out for revenge.

A meandering plot waiting for the next action scene features Mr. Bourne losing a good friend, searching for his father’s killer and attempting to stop the agency’s latest black-ops surveillance program.

A support cast includes Tommy Lee Jones as the grizzled director Robert Dewey, Julia Stiles as the assets-trusting buddy Nicolette Parsons and Vincent Cassel as a “Terminator”-like Blackbriar assassin.

Although it thematically never lives up to Mr. Damon’s previous Bourne outing, the movie’s pair of vehicle chase scenes will have viewers riveted to their seats, and the actor’s prowess with close quarters fisticuffs will not disappoint.

4K UHD in action: Sitting close while watching the film on a 65-inch, HDR-ready television sporting 2160p resolution will give viewers a feeling they are literally in some of the “Jason Bourne” locales such as Berlin; Iceland; the Las Vegas strip; a frozen Langley, Virginia; or walking along the National Mall at dusk.

A nighttime protest in Athens took on an eerie lifelike presence as though I was looking down upon the protesters from an open window in an upper-floor hotel room.

Minutia not easily discerned in 1080p quality but easily appreciated in 4K included the polished wood grain of a boardroom table and the sheen on vehicles crashing into the entrance of the Riviera casino.

Not so appreciated were the ridiculous facial and skin details — down to wound aberrations and freckles on Mr. Bourne’s body, a preponderance of razor stubble on many of the male characters and the age-line crevices of the scowling Mr. Lee Jones as well as his age-spotted forehead.

Best extras: Of the 47 minutes of featurettes found on the included Blu-ray disc version of the film, I enjoyed 15 minutes on creating the mind-boggling vehicle chase scenes and 8 minutes about Mr. Damon’s physical regime to prepare for some intense, bare-knuckle boxing sessions.

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