The Huntsman: Winter's War [4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray]
(Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Rob Brydon, Nick Frost, et al / Two-disc set (1 BD-50, 1 BD-66) / PG-13 / 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Eric and fellow warrior Sara, raised as members of ice Queen Freya's army, try to conceal their forbidden love as they fight to survive the wicked intentions of both Freya and her sister Ravenna.
Blu-ray Verdict: Universal Home Entertainment is expanding their 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray catalog offerings this August with the release of the recently announced ‘The Huntsman: Winter's War’ in the new 4K home video format on August 23rd, 2016.
The ‘The Huntsman: Winter's War 4K UHD’ Blu-ray combo pack includes the theatrical and newly restored extended cuts in 4K as well as 1080p Blu-ray with Audio in DTS: X. It truly is masterful what they have done to this movie for 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' is now presented in a vivid (man is it vivid!) HVEC/H.265 encode and HDR10 / WCG grading that is framed in the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
Indeed, 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' brings forth this superb Ultra HD Blu-ray as part of this two-disc combo-pack featuring one Ultra HD Blu-ray and one Blu-ray housing both the 2 hour and 24 minute theatrical and 2 hour and 33 minute extended cuts - plus on the second disc, a director's commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, behind the scenes glimpses and such more more. Oh, and a Digital HD redemption code for use with iTunes or Ultra Violet
Overall, this is a strong UHD Blu-ray presentation, and aside from the 4K (ie: 4x sharper image), the HDR (High Dynamic Range) is brilliant for the lights and deepest of darks, the Immersive Audio is phenomenal for the multi-dimensional experience of the woods and so forth, and the overall quality is, well, truly a visual masterpiece here in 4K.
The audio department get a standing ovation and this is the strongest DTS:X sound mix I've heard thus far on these new formats. The DTS:X Immersive Audio/ DTS Digital Surround 5.1 Spanish and French (Canadian) is stunning here now and has to be heard on surround sound to be truly appreciated, trust me.
As for the movie itself, well, 'The Huntsman: Winter's War' is great fodder for fans of the genre; the slenderly plotted film moves along at a nice pace and the cast do a decent job with what they're given. Although it's undoubtedly a cash-grab sequel (do not believe the "before Snow White" marketing), it manages to argue its case for existing fairly well. Contractual obligations aside, Hemsworth and Theron resume their roles with great gusto, with Hemsworth arguably vastly improving on his performance in the first film. Throw in Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain and you're confronted with a pretty enviable - if surprising - cast for a film of this level.
The basic driving plot of the film is centered on Eric's (the previously anonymous Huntsman from the first outing) dubiously arranged quest to locate and return the powerful magic mirror, before it falls into the wrong (icy) hands. Accompanied by some foul-mouthed dwarfs, the scenes in the forests and fields are probably some of the better sequences in the film, if only for their tonal consistency rather than their originality. These portions of the film focus on action and comedy, and the camaraderie comes across well enough.
This quest is framed at both the start and end of the film by a strange and rather hastily delivered - yet nonetheless enjoyable - story of two sisters and a sad betrayal. Ravenna (Theron) and Freya (Blunt) are supposedly the closest of siblings who become parted by a very dark event that awakens a great power within Freya. Fleeing her sister's kingdom in a mix of despair, anger and confusion, Freya sets up home in the mysterious "North" and uses her new strength to gather children to train as her army.
It is here that the two stories are tied together, with stolen children Eric and Sara (Chastain) growing to become two of her trusted Huntsmen. The scenes in the North are mostly effective and judiciously used; the muted colour palette here isn't allowed to become boring, and this mini saga is undoubtedly uplifted by Blunt's delicate performance.
If you have seen the trailers for this film and are keen to experience the full thing, go in with realistic expectations and you'll have a fun two hours; I am certain that the vast majority of prominent critics will despise this film, but it wasn't made for them. Yes, it's a patchwork production of popular elements from other sources and is generally a rather campy affair, but that's what makes it such an inoffensive and entertaining film. There is plenty to like here, if you give it a chance. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and each version comes with the Special Features of:
BLU-RAY™ DISC EXCLUSIVES:
Two Queens and Two Warriors – The true heart of The Huntsman: Winter’s War is found in its three powerful women, Ravenna, Freya, and Eric’s lost wife, Sara. Learn how the strength and complexity of the film’s female roles drew potent new star power in Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain, as well as convincing Charlize Theron to reprise her role as Ravenna.
Meet the Dwarfs – Nick Frost’s Nion and Rob Brydon’s Gryff brought a sense of levity and fun to the adventure — especially once they met their female counterparts. Explore the importance of all four dwarf characters in the film and on set, where the actors who portrayed them earn a reputation for keeping the fun rolling, even when the cameras stopped.
Magic All Around – Rooted in history, but inhabited by magic, the world of The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a true visual spectacle. Follow along and see how the magic made it to the screen. From Freya’s icy freeze to the gold-laden goblins of the forest, explore the visual effects at work with an exclusive peek behind the curtain.
BLU-RAY™ and DVD BONUS FEATURES:
Deleted Scenes with Commentary
Dressed To Kill – Academy Award®-winning costumer Colleen Atwood returns to help reignite the splendor she brought to Snow White and The Huntsman. A visual feast, her costumes often border on the supernatural in their beauty while helping bring the characters to life.
Love Conquers All — From the infectious enthusiasm of director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan to the sisterly bond shared by Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron, the set of The Huntsman: Winter’s War was filled with laughter and life. Actors and artists came together to help create a fairy tale about the pure power of love — and had a blast along the way.
Feature Commentary by director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
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