It’s showtime! Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is dropping not one, not two, but four new 4K UHD editions from their vast catalogue: Richard Donner’s The Goonies (1985), Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988), and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). While their respective cultural impacts are vastly different, each one offers an absolute ride that never gets old. It’s why people still proclaim “Goonies Never Say Die,” know to avoid the sandworms of Saturn, and have found that Sherlock Holmes is more than a strong mind, he’s also an incredible pugilist. As each one drops on September 1st in 4K UHD, it’s not an issue of which one to get, but which one to watch first.
As more and more films are upgraded to 4K UHD, the question becomes: do we really need it upgraded? There’s an argument for and against, so let’s explore this briefly. 4K UHD is merely 4x the pixels than a standard 1080p (or Blu-ray), which allows for greater definition in the image and dynamic range in color. This is because a 4K UHD disc holds more information than a standard Blu-ray so it’s able to display more. The real trick is in understanding that the more digital elements are included in a production, the harder it is to get a true 4K UHD experience unless the source itself is digital 4K or it was shot on film. This is why newer films like Alita: Battle Angel (2019) are harder to distinguish from their Blu-ray counterparts versus Jaws (1975). This is important to consider before making any upgrade purchase as the source from which a 4K UHD disc, or even a 2K or 4K restoration, makes a giant difference in how it looks projected.
Before diving into the nitty gritty, be advised that Warner Brothers states that each of the 4K UHD Combo Pack releases includes the same special features from previous Blu-ray releases. This matters solely from the perspective of those who already own these films and where the allure of a 4K UHD edition is not enough. All of the special features are housed on the Blu-ray and the 4K UHD discs only contain the film. So if you already own each of these films and want more than just upgraded image and sound, you’re good to wait. However, if an improvement in the cinematic experience is what you’re looking for, we can recommend each of these with confidence. There is one thing to take into advisement, which is that the discs for The Goonies and Beetlejuice did have display issues at first when played through the Xbox One X used for this review. When jumping from one scene to another, The Goonies displayed some obvious visual distortion and lag between audio and video. Given a moment, it did catch back up and played fine for the duration. Beetlejuice, however, required a restart of the system entirely for it to play without any kind of artifacts or lag impacting play.
Now let’s move on to the films individually.
Director Tim Burton’s second full-length feature is not just a Halloween classic, but a cinematic one that blends genres one overtop the other in such a refined way that the end result is entirely seamless. As Beetlejuice jumps from small town drama to supernatural comedy to horror thriller, each aspect is treated with enormous sincerity by the cast, all of which take their performances with such devotion that you can’t help finding yourself pulled into lives of the recently deceased Connecticut Maitlands and newly arrived New York Deetzs. It certainly helps that the practical effects remain just as wild now as they were then — from the construction of a to-scale replica of Adam Maitland’s town model to the facial applications adorning Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as they attempt to terrify the Deetzs via facial transmogrification. As a film, the whole stands up to time, revealing not a single issue large or minor. On the whole, the 4K UHD edition upholds as well. With the addition of HDR, the interior shots look naturally lit, shadows appearing more dark and the colors possess an every bolder vibrancy. Michael Keaton’s Betelgeuse make-up somehow looks moldier than before around the hairline, however, the dark circles around his eyes appear far more caked on than natural/supernatural. This is something that was noted in the Batman 4KUHD review in regard to Jack Nicholson’s Joker make-up. The greater definition in the image does allow the audience to see through a few of the effects. Even Saturn looks a little more false than before, but, overall, the entire film feels fresh and brand new. The scenes in the afterlife and the exorcism in particular stand-out as feeling far more immersive.
Quick note that Beetlejuice is the only one of the four films which comes with a Dolby Atmos audio track. This could not be tested on our home unit as the surround sound system we own doesn’t possesses an Atmos encoder. For this review, a 5.1 set-up with Dolby Pro Logic II was used and it sounded markedly more impressive than the standard Blu-Ray.
For those who grew up with Donner’s adventure, being called a “Goonie” is a badge of honor. It’s a title belonging to an outcast who often gathers with others of similar labels. A title which brings the opposite of shame, but bestows courage and announces originality. A “Goonie” is someone who believes in something greater than what is presented in the world in front of us, seeing the potential for wonder and crusades around every corner. All of this is maintained wonderfully and continues to be conveyed in the 4K UHD release. Though it boasts no improved sound beyond what prior Blu-ray releases possessed, the inclusion of HDR offers the first time Goonies looked anything liked what audiences experienced in the theaters. Early in the film, when Mikey (Sean Astin) and the gang are in his attic and find the map, the colors are far more natural in tone. As a storm blusters outside, the attic is full of shadows aside from a shock of light from lightning, so much of the screen is organically dark. The HDR inclusion provides the scene with more mystery as the setting is more realistically lit. Don’t confuse this with being unintelligible as you can still see what’s going on, such as when Mikey hands Chunk (Jeff Cohen) the framed picture containing the map, knowing full-well the somewhat nebbish child will drop it within seconds. Much later, as the Goonies take a moment to answer nature’s call, the darkly lit scenes take on a more fantastical feel, as an accidental stolen kiss becomes Mikey’s first. All in all, like other films originally shot on film, the 4K UHD is far more noticeable in clarity and sound. Does this mean you can notice details previously hidden by lower resolution? Yes. It does not, however, impact the overall enjoyment of the film (minus, of course, the horrible stereotyping of Ke Huy Quan’s Data. That part has not aged well at all).
After a string of films that couldn’t live up to the swagger or impact of 2000’s Snatch, director Guy Ritchie struck gold with the Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law led Sherlock Holmes. Instead of the totally cerebral detective audiences are familiar with, Ritchie utilized some of the lesser focused-upon qualities of Holmes to create something more akin to superhero Downey was becoming known for a year after the release of Iron Man (2008). The end result is a rip-roaring tale of intrigue through the macabre via Mark Strong’s Lord Henry Blackwood, practitioner of the dark arts. The HDR works wonders here as the already sepia visual tone of the film harkens back to the photography from 1890. The whole of the film possesses this pallor, grounding the period of the story, yet does so without the detriment to the colors of costumes or set design. This means that the fight club sequence in which the audience watches Holmes brutally destroy an opponent contains a griminess to it, while the appearance of Rachel McAdams’s Irene Adler is able to maintain the beauty of the character. With HDR, both of these visual aspects can be true without seeming out of place or distracting. This is particularly important in the opening sequence when the audience first sees Holmes at work, attempting to rescue one of Blackwood’s victims, and not only is there no visible distortion artifacts in the darkness but the colors of the victims’ garbs contrast wonderfully.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
Released two years later, A Game of Shadows not only is a true sequel to Sherlock Holmes in that it carries the narrative forward, but it manages to do so while improving upon what worked in the first film. One of the best improvements, save for Stephen Fry’s inclusion as older brother Mycroft, is not only bringing Professor James Moriarty to the fore-front, but the performance from Jared Harris who is equally as charismatic as Downey Jr is as Holmes. And if you’re going to bring it Moriarty, the reason must be equal to the measure of the infamous nemesis. Though I’d argue that A Game of Shadows doesn’t flow as neatly as its predecessor, it is equally as much fun as not just the whole cast gets more to do, but that Downey and Law are really able to cut loose with their characters now that they have been set up. Admittedly, it would be wonderful if the 4K UHD release included an upgrade to the sound as Ritchie ups the action, but, absent that, the HDR more than increases the visual appeal. Shadows utilizes a slightly toned down version of the sepia present in the initial outing, allowing for more natural colors in costumes, set, and production to shine through. This is particularly noticeable in the climax of the film as Holmes and Moriarty face off in a game of chess while Law’s Watson and Noomi Rapace’s Madam Simza Heron suss out an assassin in their midst. In this sequence, the darkness which surrounds Holmes and Moriarty doesn’t envelope the men, even as they drape midnight cloaks over themselves to keep warm again the white snow that surrounds them. In fact, with the HDR, the tranquil scene that makes up their showdown becomes quite beautiful. Likewise, the den of danger Watson and Heron are in — an ambassador’s function — appears far more resplendent and opulent.
In summation, if you’ve been holding out for a solid reason to upgrade any of these four films, you’ve found it. The special features may be redundant from past editions, but as these offer not just the 4K UHD disc, but also Blu-ray and digital, you’ve got three formats in one release that make the cost a little easier to justify. One bit of caution, the third Sherlock Holmes film is rumored for release in 2021, so it’s up to you if you want to jump in now or wait to see if a 3-pack appears.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and digital September 1st, 2020.
Beetlejuice Blu-ray and digital Special Features
- Three episodes of the animated Beetlejuice TV series
- Music-only audio track
- Theatrical trailer
Sherlock Holmes Special Features
- Maximum Movie Mode: Sherlock Holmes
- Focus Points: 9-Part Exploration of Sherlock Holmes
- Behind The Story: Sherlock Holmes: Reinvented
- Warner Bros. BD-Live
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Special Features
- Maximum Movie Mode: Inside the Mind of Sherlock Holmes hosted by Robert Downey Jr.
- Focus Points
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Movie App
The Goonies Special Features
- Commentary (with hidden treasures) by director Richard Donner and select cast members
- The Making of The Goonies featurette
- Cyndi Lauper “The Goonies ‘r’ Good Enough” music video
- Theatrical trailer