- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 1, 2021

Here’s a look at a pair of ultra-high definition movie releases offering a look at the past and a potential future.

News of the World (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 118 minutes, $44.98) — Long before the days of broadcast television, men used to travel to less populated areas and read the highlights and lowlights of newspapers in small towns.

This premise sets the stage for director Paul (“Green Zone” and “Captain Philips”) Greengrass’ recent post-Civil War drama, adapted from Paulette Jiles’ novel, that finds retired Confederate army Capt. and entertaining news reader Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) delivering the words in Texas back in 1870.

When he stumbles upon Cicada (Helena Zengel), a young, White female child apparently raised by native Americans but abandoned, he is unwillingly tasked with returning her to her surviving relatives.

The complex mission that follows allows Capt. Kidd and his companion to bring out the best in each other as they survive a variety of encounters usually associated with scumbag outlaws or radicals and even an encounter with her tribe.

By the end of the arduous bittersweet journey, they both manage to find what they have lost within a time rife with suffering and healing.

Mr. Hanks, with help from Miss Zengel, shines as usual as he reminds viewers of the days when John Wayne and Gary Cooper ruled the Western.

The UHD visual presentation with high dynamic range enhancements, culled from a native 4K digital intermediate, takes full advantage of the easy-to-appreciate majesty of environments in the American Southwest captured at sunrise, sunset and as the sun blazes during the day.

Moments and details to embrace include a rainy nighttime scene outside of a church with a slightly purplish sky; a glistening creek embedded in a desert wrapped by a mountain range; the various subtle shades of rock found on cliffs and hill sides; a moonlight escape with a dusk of blues set against a misty mountain range; a monstrous sandstorm blurring the screen with reddish-beige hues; and an over-the-top view of a massive amount of cattle entering a muddied town.

Best extras: The welcomed solo optional commentary track has Mr. Greengrass sometimes too methodically explaining the story of the film — literally retelling the action, almost like a narrator while wrapping in some historical context.

Those looking for more of a precise technical breakdown or exhaustive deconstruction of the production will be disappointed. He eventually digs a little deeper and touches on the cinematography, but he is fixated on being the omniscient story chronicler.

Mr. Greengrass is not the most gregarious of speakers, but any time a director is willing to sit down and offer his vision, viewers should still dive in.

Viewers also get four featurettes (roughly 30 minutes in total) offering gushing praise of Mr. Hanks and Miss Zengel’s performances from cast and crew; a look at the production of the film from locations to musical score (supplemented with interviews); an overview of some of the key Western-themed scenes; and a too-brief look at the real Kiowa tribe seen in the movie.

Gattaca (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated: PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 106 minutes, $38.99) — Director Andrew Niccol’s Academy Award-nominated 1997 dystopian sci-fi drama debuts in ultra-high definition format for home theaters and packed in an exclusive steelbook case.

The woeful tale takes viewers into the “not-too-distant future” and a world where genetic engineering allows for the creation of biologically superior human specimens called “valids” that grow up to control positions of power.

Enter Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), a man who dreams of becoming an astronaut but due to being born without an altered genotype superiority (just the old-fashioned way) ends up as a janitor at the elite Gattaca Aerospace Corporation.

However, his world changes when he illegally buys the blood, urine and identity of a perfect but paralyzed athlete named Jerome Morrow (Jude Law).

Now, considered a perfect specimen, Vincent (i.e. Jerome) can receive the perks of being a valid, find love with Gattaca co-worker Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman) and possibly journey to the stars.

Except, a murder in the company’s ranks attracts the attention of an old school detective Hugo (Alan Arkin) who may unintentionally threaten to ruin Vincent’s plans.

The intriguing, philosophical premise does not disappoint mixing high tech with a murder mystery methodically playing out in an Alfred Hitchcock style.

Stargazers should carefully watch for appearances by legend Ernest Borgnine as the head of the Gattaca janitors, political pundit Gore Vidal as Director Josef, Tony Shalub (“Monk”) as identity dealer German, and SNL alum Maya Rudolph as a nurse, in one of her first film roles.

The visual presentation remastered in 4k from the scanned original camera with increased color saturation offers an upgraded experience highlighting the futuristic building architecture and excellent production design detail revealed by cinematographer Sławomir Idziak.

Especially noteworthy is examining the many scenes of the curved concrete Gattaca building (actually the Marin County Civic Center) especially when Jerome and Irene look like matchsticks in a wide shot or the contrasts of sickly yellow hue of the outdoor daylight scenes versus the near sterile interiors.

Examples of reinvigorated color include the blood and brain remnants on a keyboard used to beat a Gattaca employee to death; the smoke blown into an underlit wine glass; and a neon green tunnel with the hues reflecting off of a silver sports car.

Best extras: Viewers get a pair of previously released but worthwhile featurettes found on the included Blu-ray disc of the film.

First, a 22-minute retrospective of the film covering production design, casting, the director and marketing campaign as cast and crew offer some fond memories of the project.

Next, Vidal narrates a 15-minute, science-heavy overview of the genetic research breakthroughs that could lead to a Gattaca world.

It touches on discovering the structure of DNA, gene sequencing, mapping the human genome, cloning, genetic engineering and genoism (gene discrimination). It’s a great and concise primer though, obviously, outdated.

Also, worth a look are some of the deleted scenes. Of the six, the best offers a revelation by Hugo and a coda to the film showing some of the greatest humans of the world and their afflictions that would have placed them in the “invalid” category in “Gattaca.”

Finally, the smooth, bronze-colored metallic case features a DNA strand and stylistic images of Vincent and a shadow of Jerome in his wheelchair behind him on the front and an image of Irene on the back.

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