UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 06 Nov 2019, 14:28

Blu-ray.com review (US, Lionsgate edition):
https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Universa ... 23/#Review

So, what's it going to be this time: a recycled and some might argue dated 1080p Blu-ray packaged with a "new, improved" 2160p version on a 4K UHD disc, or a telltale "really new and improved" 1080p transfer with a StudioCanal logo? For those who have been following the rather circuitous and maybe even labyrinthine release "strategy" of Lionsgate vis a vis their 4K UHD content, that continues to be a pressing quandary, and for any readers of this review who may be wondering, Universal Soldier falls into the second category, with both the 1080p Blu-ray and 2160 4K UHD discs sporting the StudioCanal identifier, as well as what has become another giveaway that we're dealing with new transfers, namely a boot up menu asking the viewer to select what language they prefer. It also appears that the (way) old Blu-ray release from Lionsgate sported a VC-1 encode, while the 1080p Blu-ray in this set is encoded via MPEG-4 AVC.

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As mentioned above, Lionsgate released Universal Soldier at the veritable dawn of the Blu-ray age back in 2008, and there's a plot recap available on our old Universal Soldier Blu-ray review. This review is so old that its reviewer, who evidently went by a nom d'internet (hey, that's a thing), is unknown to me, and I most likely would not have been nearly as generous in my video assessment of that now long ago release, so my score here should be taken within that context.



Video Quality 4K 4.0 of 5 1080p 4.5 of 5

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Note: Screenshots are sourced from the 1080p Blu-ray.

Universal Soldier is presented in 4K UHD courtesy of Lionsgate Films and StudioCanal with a 2160p transfer in 2.35:1. As stated above, this release seems to be offering a new 1080p version as well, and so my comments may ping pong back and forth between the two presentations a bit more than usual. As also stated above, I probably would have been nowhere as kind to the video presentation of the old 1080p Blu-ray, but that said, I no longer have it in my personal collection to do a side by side (by side) comparison, and so my comments will be based at least partly on what I readily admit may be faulty memories. However, one of the reasons I don't have it is because I do clearly remember how disappointed I was with its overly digital, excessively "tweaked" look. The first thing fans of this film may notice about both the 1080p and 2160p presentations is that there is film grain in evidence, and in fact it can be quite thick at times, though kind of interestingly, I found resolution to be less pleasing in some different places in the 1080p and 2160p presentations. To cite just one of several potential examples, at around 31:34 at the beginning of the motel sequence, the 1080p Blu-ray can look just slightly splotchy, while to my eyes the 2160p presentation looked at least marginally more organic. Other moments, like the helicopter flying through fog and/or mist at circa 6:36 looked a bit rougher to my eyes in the 2160p presentation than in the 1080p presentation. The 2160p presentation does seem to encounter some occasional slight hurdles in the resolution of scenes that involve a lot of smoke or mistiness. Detail levels definitely enjoy a general uptick in the 2160p presentation, and some fine detail elements, like the knit fabric of the ski mask a hostage taker wears in the Hoover Dam sequence, really pop with considerably more texture in the 2160p presentation. Dolby Vision and HDR add some notable shadow detail across the board in the 4K UHD version, something that can be especially noticeable in the rainy bookending sequences or even in a number of very dimly lit material, like some of the interiors of various vehicles. There are some really appealing highlights added in the 4K UHD version, with hues in the yellow spectrum (which I'd also include oranges and peaches in) really popping vividly. Teals also get some interesting highlights, especially in some of the lab material, but also in more "mundane" elements like the color of the steering wheel in the vintage Chevy. A late supermarket sequence offers some incredibly well saturated reds as a backdrop. The entire "desert" sequence offers a substantially warmer palette and the better lighting conditions probably help to promote overall better fine detail.



Audio Quality 4.0 of 5

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While the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix on both discs in this release offers a recreation of a soundtrack which isn't completely up to today's hyperbolic sound design standards, I was generally more favorably disposed toward it than the initial reviewer of the long ago Lionsgate Blu-ray release evidently was. There is good engagement of the surround channels in the opening Nam sequence, with gunfire clearly emanating from the side channels and an impressive amount of immersion, along with some signficiant bursts of LFE. As might be expected, the action sequences, including a climactic battle involving trucks, provides a lot of surround activity and good use of the low end. Dialogue is rendered cleanly and clearly throughout. One small anomaly, which appears to be baked in: what sounds to me almost like tape "wobble" afflicts the music underlying the Carolco logo on both the 1080p and 2160p versions.



Special Features and Extras 1.5 of 5

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Both the 1080p and 2160p discs sport the same supplements (video supplements on the 1080p Blu-ray disc are in 480i and on the 2160p disc in 1080p):

Commentary from Roland Emmerich, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and Dean Devlin

Commentary from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin

A Tale of Two Titans (14:12) is a kind of actually sweet dual biography of Van Damme and Lundgren.

Guns, Genes and Fighting Machines (18:53) is a decent EPK with interviews, behind the scenes footage and interviews.

Alternate Ending (13:08)

Behind the Scenes (15:28)

Trailer (2:19)
A propos of nothing major but simply offered as a passing observation, I believe this is the first time I've seen upscaled 480i material on my Oppo 4K UHD player, and I have to say I was kind of surprised that it looked at least as relatively decent as it did.



Overall Score and Recommendation 3.0 of 5

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Universal Soldier is described in one of the supplements as a "mini-Terminator", and that description probably suffices as well as any, but it may also point up the fact that the film often feels derivative. Fans of the film should be pleased with the overall technical presentation on this release, and the inclusion of two commentary tracks will probably be appreciated as well.



EDIT:





Already out of stock on the French Amazon, restock on November 15...
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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 08 Nov 2019, 16:48

French reviews
http://www.regard-critique.fr/rdvd/critique.php?ID=5435
https://www.on-mag.fr/index.php/video-h ... soldier-4k
https://www.hdnumerique.com/dossiers/76 ... ldier.html





UNIVERSAL SOLDIER 4K: Dolph Makes History
https://www.freekittensmovieguide.com/2 ... story.html
But the real rediscovery is Dolph Lundgren, who’s never been taken too seriously. Looking back at his performance in Universal Soldier might just suggest he’s always been a bit been underused. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was overlooked during Oscar season, but Lundgren’s actually quite good here, and not just when he’s snapping limbs. Given the opportunity, he’s capable of some prime scenery-chewing and is easily the best part of the entire film. Unfortunately, no one appeared to appreciate his efforts because Universal Soldier is, so far, the pinnacle of his career.




Whysoblu review
http://whysoblu.com/universal-soldier-4 ... ay-review/
Video 4.5/5
Encoding: HEVC/ H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Universal Soldier arrives on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a brand new transfer via Studio Canal. This is a native 4K picture. Of note, the Blu-ray included features the new transfer and not the former one on the Lionsgate release. The picture is much more crisp, darker and more refined than previous (Leaps and bounds so) with good color saturation and depth to showcase. Detail and color saturation/black levels sees a pretty notable uptick from the new Blu-ray that’s included on this release as well.

Depth: Spacing sees a nice improvement over the previous Blu-ray release, this has some rather good depth on pushback, apparent in more interiors and set shot exteriors. Motion is smooth with no disruptive distortions present.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and totally natural here, baring a little bit of heavier grain and handling fog/mist/smoke with admirable accuracy. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty strong and well saturated with a slight blue edge them, more apparent in the darker sequences. Its well saturated throughout and reds have a nice pop to them. HDR comes across nicely with a good glow on lights and explosions as would be expected.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and find a good consistency throughout the entirety of the feature. Facial details come through quite clearly in any given frame with stubble, sweat, dried blood, wrinkles make-up lines and more coming through better than ever.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.



Audio 4/5
Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Latin American Spanish 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: I’m pretty sure the original 5.1 DTS-HD MA track has been retained from the original Universal Soldier Blu-ray release. If they’ve done anything to it, its been nothing excessive. While not a mastery of the arts, it knows how to pack what an action fan would want into a mix, heavy on the action with loud, layered effects, speaker traveling and plenty of usage from the subwoofer.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer does not disappoint here as effects pound plenty loud and the natural effects get a nice swift bump as well.

Surround Sound Presentation: Speaker interplay is playful and pretty on point. Not so much in the unique environmental sounds but moreso in helicopters flying around the room and a bullets/rockets traveling back to front and side to side.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. With how loud the effects and score come off in this mix, they do feel a bit low and less prominent than one might expect.

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Summary 3.5/5
Universal Soldier promises more than it delivers, but still manages to be a fun, B-level action film once you can see what it really is. Lionsgate ports of the UK Studio Canal release that is a very solid presentation, and an easy upgrade from what was available before. There’s a new transfer that looks MUCH better, the 5.1 holds strong and all the extras carry over. I don’t know if this is a “DAY ONE!” title for anybody, but this is a real solid pick up/upgrade when the inevitable $9.99 price drop happens.
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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 09 Nov 2019, 12:11

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: Next Generation Warfare Hits Next Generation Home Video
https://cinapse.co/universal-soldier-ne ... beb2d946f4

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Van Damme and Lundgren are simply in top form here. Lundgren probably contains more natural acting talent and brings a truly impressive performance to the screen as the deranged Andrew Scott. His “ear necklaces” were legendary as I was growing up, but his performance is incredibly charismatic and threatening. Van Damme has always had charisma and has very steadily worked to become a very fine actor. Here he gets lots of the best comedy elements, and is given plenty of opportunity to display his trademark spin kicks and butt cheeks. Their pairing here as adversaries is the stuff of action movie heaven and has continued to play out in interesting ways in the aforementioned fantastic direct-to-video sequels.

There’s enough ingredients in Universal Soldier to make it lovable and recommendable, but plenty of flaws enough to understand why someone might not consider it a particularly great film. An important stopping point in the careers of lots of the major talent in front of and behind the camera, Universal Soldier remains an entertaining time capsule in action cinema history.


The Package
Lionsgate and Studio Canal are cranking out classic action films on 4K Ultra HD discs. I just reviewed their Red Heat release last week and while I sadly was too busy to cover the Rambo series’ Ultra HD release, those are available now too. This action cinema fan and home video devotee couldn’t be more pleased to see this play out. It helps that both Red Heat and Universal Soldier look pretty damn fantastic in the format. Red Heat was perhaps the more mind blowing transfer, but these chiseled heroes look absolutely stunning here in Universal Soldier as well.
This disc is also packed with bonus features and even 2 commentary tracks. None appear to be new for this release, but with a fantastic transfer, tons of features, and even a Blu-ray and Digital copy, Universal Soldier on 4K UHD is an easy recommend for fans without necessarily being an essential upgrade if someone already owns a Blu-ray.
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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 10 Nov 2019, 18:12

If you're a member of the Blu-ray.com forum, the boom operator of the film, Huck Caton, shared some of his personal photos from the set 8)
https://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php? ... tcount=224

Howdy:

I was the boom operator on Universal Soldier way back when and thought I’d peruse a few posts in this thread regarding the show (and this new 4K release).

As I haven’t seen the movie since the crew screening, I’m both surprised people are still interested in the movie and how heated the discussion regarding Walter’s photography (and color timing) has gotten. I was actually surprised to learn that Walter no longer shoots for Roland as I figured they’d be a team forever. I wonder what happened there. Hmmm…

Anyway, I decided to dig around for some photos from back in 1991 and managed to find a few. I thought perhaps someone might find them interesting… or not!

Sorry to interrupt the proceedings! Now, where did I put my Universal Soldier crew jacket…


~Huck
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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 12 Nov 2019, 17:57

Starburst magazine (UK) review for the 4K/BD remastered release
https://www.starburstmagazine.com/revie ... soldier-4k

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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 14 Nov 2019, 14:09

[Tip for the French about accessing the 2nd commentary the new edition]

Pour les Français qui auraient acheté la nouvelle édition, le second commentaire audio (plus intéressant et plus ancient, avec R. Emmerich et D. Devlin seuls) n'est pas dans le menu en français mais accessible soit en changeant de piste audio (la 5ème), soit par le menu anglais que vous pouvez choisir en insérant le disque...

(Et si come moi vous n'êtes pas équipés en 4K, le Blu-ray standard inclut vaut le coup pour son transfert restoré et bien plus fidèle au film tel que projeté en salles en 1992)
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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 21 Nov 2019, 03:08

Home Theater Forum review
https://www.hometheaterforum.com/univer ... hd-review/



Jox wrote:If you're a member of the Blu-ray.com forum, the boom operator of the film, Huck Caton, shared some of his personal photos from the set 8)
https://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php? ... tcount=224

Howdy:

I was the boom operator on Universal Soldier way back when and thought I’d peruse a few posts in this thread regarding the show (and this new 4K release).

As I haven’t seen the movie since the crew screening, I’m both surprised people are still interested in the movie and how heated the discussion regarding Walter’s photography (and color timing) has gotten. I was actually surprised to learn that Walter no longer shoots for Roland as I figured they’d be a team forever. I wonder what happened there. Hmmm…

Anyway, I decided to dig around for some photos from back in 1991 and managed to find a few. I thought perhaps someone might find them interesting… or not!

Sorry to interrupt the proceedings! Now, where did I put my Universal Soldier crew jacket…


~Huck

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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 25 Nov 2019, 08:17

Daily Grindhouse review
http://dailygrindhouse.com/thewire/now- ... es-4k-uhd/

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(I assume this still is from the original ending)
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Re: UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (Roland Emmerich, 1992)

Postby Jox on 27 Nov 2019, 05:26

Film Freak Central
https://www.filmfreakcentral.net/ffc/20 ... -1992.html

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On a darker note, Lundgren is genuinely dislikable as a walking manifestation of American military misadventures. He's not simply a strongman--he's a bully. One of the film's wildest ideas is having his character take over a supermarket deli counter while ranting contemptuously at hapless shoppers about the war he imagines still raging outside. It's funny because it's ridiculous, and yet it's not, because you hear tough guys like this on talk radio all the time. I don't mean to posit Universal Soldier as a critique of U.S. policy, though it's surely no accident that the film's opening gambit is a wartime atrocity, its primary antagonist a xenophobic sociopath, and the overarching enemy a runaway military-industrial complex. At one point, someone asks Lundgren's character, "Can I have a word with you?" And Lundgren again holds up the grotesque human trophy acquired in the first reel, which he has somehow kept with him this whole time, and smugly declares, "I'm all ears." That's scary-funny, and the atrocity is the punchline--comedy merging with horror. It's in poor taste, yeah. But kicking the stuffing out of this guy is Van Damme's patriotic duty.

THE 4K UHD DISC
Lionsgate's UHD BD, drawn from a new master created by StudioCanal, is a suitably big improvement over previous releases. The picture is uniformly very sharp, with excellent detail retention from edge to edge. Film grain, present to a greater or lesser extent throughout, has been well preserved through the compression process. (No doubt it helps that the disc is encoded at a generous average video bitrate of 64 Mbps, with an extra 16 Mbps tacked on for the Dolby Vision layer.) Colour rendition seems to be on target, accurately conveying the cool blues endemic to action films of the era, offering up well-balanced skin tones, and capturing the way pinkish-red flares light up the otherwise intensely monochromatic greens of the opening jungle sequence. The brighter green neon of the Lucky Motor Court is suitably lush, and even the darker and dingier shots here look exceptionally film-like. Even though only daylight exteriors (and the occasional fireball from something blowing up real good) benefit much from the expanded brightness offered by HDR, the wide colour gamut does enhance clarity throughout. This is an exceptionally crisp transfer and the opening titles really pop--on close inspection, it looks like they were recreated and digitally composited into the shots, avoiding the generational loss inherent in the original elements. Meanwhile, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio doesn't have quite as much presence as the most aggressive action-movie tracks, although it is robust when it needs to be, employing plenty of directional effects, with deep bass bolstering the aforementioned big explosions and underscoring a home-invasion scene near the end of the film with a low, throbbing heartbeat sound effect. (Oddly, the Carolco theme that plays under the opening logo exhibits wow and flutter à la an old cassette tape.)

Two audio commentaries are on board, one featuring Emmerich and Devlin with occasional interjections by Van Damme and Lundgren (the actors seem to have been recorded in separate sessions), the other offering only Emmerich and Devlin. Google searches indicate that the former track is held over from its initial appearance on a 2004 DVD release. I haven't been able to nail down the provenance of the latter, but since it mentions Ally Walker's lead role on NBC's late-'90s hit "Profiler", it can be no earlier than 1997 or so, and therefore I'm assuming it was the earlier recording. Both tracks are mediocre, with too much dead air; both are dominated by Emmerich; and both cover a lot of the same territory. You'll hear about where the film's Vietnam scenes were actually shot, why certain decisions during the production would be made differently were the film shot today, and what they did with the two weeks of reshoots after test screenings. The 2004 commentary might be a little more lively thanks to the lead actors' contributions, yet Emmerich's and Devlin's recollections seem to be fresher in their earlier take.

If you'd rather spend only a half-hour or so with this special edition, you'd learn almost as much from the two mini-documentaries included. "A Tale of Two Titans" (14 mins.) looks at the life and times of Van Damme and Lundgren, starting with their childhoods in Belgium and Sweden, respectively, and continuing through their filmmaking careers. Van Damme shares some adorable family photos and recalls that David Carradine's "Kung Fu" was the formative influence that sent him to karate school. Van Damme went to dance school to learn how to stretch, and was inspired by the women around him to incorporate a sense of beauty in his own regimen. Lundgren remembers that he was unusually short as a child and took judo classes until a traumatic experience underneath a fat man led him to choose a path in karate instead. Lundgren was successful enough that he ended up fighting in championships and winning heavyweight titles around the world before studying chemical engineering in college. Maybe basic stuff for JCVD and Lundgren superfans, but a pretty informative short for the rest of us. Next up, "Guns, Genes & Fighting Machines" (19 mins.) is a couple of steps above the average talking-head-and-B-roll featurette, featuring some interesting behind-the-scenes footage and leaning heavily on contributions from Van Damme and Lundgren, though Emmerich and Devlin are also interviewed. Among other nuggets of Universal Soldier lore, it's here we learn that the title of the screenplay by originally credited writers Richard Rothstein and Christopher Leitch was Crystal Knights, and that the Vietnam War element introduced in Devlin's rewrite was Emmerich's idea. (I wonder if these two had Buffy Sainte-Marie's protest song of the same name in mind when retitling the film--"He's all of 31 and he's only 17/he's been a soldier for a thousand years.")

The film's original ending (13 mins.) is reproduced here, apparently scanned from workprint at what amounts to DVD quality. I wouldn't say it's an improvement over the theatrical release, but it's definitely interesting to see how close Emmerich and Devlin came to making a huge commercial error. If you love B-roll, Lionsgate has you covered with a 15-minute reel of behind-the-scenes footage sans voiceover or interview cutaways, and a rough-looking theatrical trailer (2 mins.) is here for Universal Soldier completists. (All of the extras have been upresed to HD from the 480i originals.) A digital download code is tucked into the box.
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