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VFW

4K Ultra HD

Blu Ray

  • Score
    74
    from 2 reviewers
    Review Date:
  • Two detailed 4K reviews: Grim VFW pleases genre fans; timeless In the Heat of the Night gets a vivid upgrade.

    VFW 4K UHD Blu-ray Front Cover

    Disc Release Date:

  • Video
    79
  • Both 'VFW' & 'In the Heat of the Night' on 4K UHD offer subtle yet noticeable upgrades with detailed textures and richer colors, despite lacking HDR.

  • Audio
    76
  • DTS-HD audio delivers immersive experiences, balancing clarity, dynamic range, and crisp dialogue across movies, with original scores and action scenes greatly enhancing atmospheres.

  • Extra
    84
  • This release includes detailed extras and commentaries, appealing packaging, and insightful film histories, though some features feel basic or short.

  • Movie
    76
  • Joe Begos' VFW blends 1980’s action/horror nostalgia with gore, while In the Heat of the Night's 4K release revisits racial tensions in a powerful mystery drama, both reflecting their genres' essence.

    Video: 79

    The 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation of "VFW" brings a visual quality that, while not perhaps the quintessential showcase for ultra-high-definition glory due to its inherently rough and gritty cinematography, certainly offers a marked improvement over its predecessors. The transfer, a capable 2160p/HEVC H.265 encoding, revels in the film's deliberate graininess and low-light ambiance, offering a faithful reproduction that respects the source material's visual intent. With no HDR enhancement, the disc might lack the dynamic range expansion avid home theater enthusiasts crave, especially in a film with such a penchant for dark scenes and neon contrasts. Nonetheless, details under well-lit conditions are impressive, highlighting textures and maintaining minimal compression artifacts, indicative of a solid mastering effort likely drawing from the best available sources.

    Comparatively speaking, the 4K UHD version steps up brightness and color vividness against its Criterion Blu-ray counterpart, likely attributed to a master sourced from a recent 4K restoration. Enhancements in detail and contrast are notably more apparent in darker scenes, which resonate with a newfound depth and immediacy. Although the film's visual style naturally emphasizes grain, especially in softer lighting or solid color backgrounds, this characteristic is preserved rather than diminished in the 4K transfer, lending an authentic film-like texture to the viewing experience.

    Richer colors and deeper blacks accentuate the transfer's quality, with reds and oranges significantly popping and contributing to the visual depth that 4K UHD can offer. Details are sharper, allowing for an immersive viewing experience where even minute aspects like sweat, facial features, and environmental textures become focal points. While the absence of HDR is a missed opportunity for enhancing the film's striking contrasts between shadows and neon lights, this release stands as a testament to how older, stylistically unique films can benefit from the jump to 4K UHD. Whether the upgrade is worth it may depend on one's affinity for "VFW," but those who do take the leap will find the transfer a commendable effort.

    Audio: 76

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track of "VFW" captivates with its original score by Steve Moore, whose collaborations with director Joe Begos are well-known. This synth-heavy score, intertwined with the film's atmospheric tones, fuels the intense action sequences that define "VFW," bringing gunshots and dynamic sound effects to life with startling clarity. The balanced dynamic range and mostly front-loaded dialogue ensure that conversations are crystal clear, while the sound design excels in utilizing discrete channels and Low-Frequency Effects (LFE) to enhance the viewing experience. This immersive soundstage is matched by the absence of synchronization issues, and English (SDH) subtitles are presented flawlessly within the cinematic frame.

    Concurrently, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track offers a different yet equally compelling auditory experience. It immerses viewers in the atmospheric setting through crisply rendered environmental sounds—chirping crickets, footsteps, and the crunch of gravel—all of which coalesce to form a vivid sonic palette. The jazzy, bluesy score by Quincy Jones envelops the listener without distortion, navigating the highs and lows with ease. The audio track maintains its integrity free from any age-related anomalies like hiss or crackle, ensuring that every dialogue line is comprehensible despite the Southern accents, testament to the remarkable sound work that earned "In the Heat of the Night" its Academy Award for Best Sound.

    Both the 5.1 and 2.0 mixes exemplify stellar audio production, each creating an engaging sensory experience in their own right. The 5.1 mix elevates the film's intense sequences with robust soundscapes and a lively score that fills the room, while the mono track offers a nuanced soundscape that pays attention to environmental details and dialogue clarity. Ambient sounds are given breath and depth, thereby enriching "VFW's" immersive environment. As a whole, both audio presentations complement the visual spectacle of "VFW," ensuring that listeners are not merely observers but are drawn deeply into its visceral cinematic world.

    Extra: 84

    The 4K UHD Blu-ray release of "VFW" offers an immersive, visually striking experience complemented by a suite of extras that, while somewhat basic beyond the audio commentaries, adds value for fans and newcomers alike. The dual-disc set comes in a well-designed package, including a dual-hubbed keepcase with attractive cover art, a matching slipcover, and a promotional insert. Standout features include two comprehensive audio commentaries led by director Joe Begos, producer Josh Ethier, and other key crew members, offering deep dives into the filmmaking process. Additionally, short segments like "The Making of VFW" and "Meet the Cast of VFW" provide a glimpse behind the scenes, though they are brief and leave audiences wanting more. While the special makeup effects segment showcases the film's gory details, it similarly offers limited insight. Collectors might also note the absence of certain supplements found in other editions, like the Criterion Blu-ray's exclusive materials, underscoring the importance of retaining previous versions for the completist.

    Extras included in this disc:

    • Audio Commentary #1: With director Joe Begos, associate producer Brian Dutton, and producer Josh Ethier.
    • Audio Commentary #2: With director Joe Begos, associate producer Brian Dutton, producer Josh Ethier, special effects artists Josh and Sierra Russell, assistant editor Matt Mercer, and others.
    • The Making of VFW: A brief overview featuring cast and crew insights.
    • Meet the Cast of VFW: Short cast interviews.
    • The Special Make-Up Effects of VFW: Behind-the-scenes look at the film's gore.

    Movie: 76

    VFW," directed by Joe Begos, is a visceral and unapologetic tribute to the low-budget, high-octane action/horror flicks of the 1980s, drawing direct inspiration from the likes of John Carpenter. The film is drenched in nostalgia, not just through its thematic and stylistic choices but also through its casting of iconic actors from the era, creating a gritty and nostalgic atmosphere underpinned by a synth-heavy score and neon-lit visuals. Its go-for-broke approach to gore and practical effects produces a squishy spectacle that, while not surpassing its eminent influences, offers a bloody good time for genre aficionados.

    The narrative simplicity of "VFW" is one of its charms, focusing on a group of grizzled veterans who find themselves in a deadly stand-off with drug-addicted punks. This premise facilitates a straightforward but relentless exploration of violence and camaraderie among the vets, played by recognizable faces like Stephen Lang, William Sadler, and Fred Williamson. The film revels in its excesses, creating an over-the-top but engaging showdown that feels both an homage to and a revitalization of 80s action cinema's best elements. Despite its budgetary constraints, "VFW" manages to outshine in terms of sheer entertainment, though its potential was arguably capped by lighting issues and less compelling performances from some of the supporting cast.

    Technically, "VFW" makes an intriguing candidate for the 4K UHD Blu-ray format, given its modest production values and dark aesthetic. However, RLJ Entertainment's release proves that even films of this ilk can benefit from the enhanced visual fidelity 4K offers, presenting the neon-drenched bloodbath and shadowy showdowns with unexpected clarity. While it may not be the most obvious choice for showcasing the capabilities of 4K UHD, "VFW" stands as a testament to the format's ability to elevate even the grittiest of indie productions, ensuring that every splatter and neon glow is rendered with precision.

    Total: 74

    Joe Begos' "VFW," released in 4K UHD by RLJ Entertainment, meshes the nostalgic essence of 1980s action/horror cinema with a modern high-definition upgrade, albeit an unexpected choice for such gritty source material. The presentation shines in evoking a pulpy, over-the-top ambiance that will satiate the appetite of genre purists, offering an elevated experience through its visual and aural enhancements. However, while the film capitalizes on gore and a standout lead performance, it struggles slightly in narrative depth and supporting roles, somewhat limiting its universal appeal. The inclusion of extras does offer additional value, making this edition the definitive version for collectors and fans.

    The 4K UHD release manages to navigate the challenges presented by the film’s intentionally rough aesthetic, enhancing clarity and color fidelity without betraying the original vision. This is crucial, as the absence of HDR – a feature that could arguably amplify the visual depth and contrast especially in darker scenes – is noted but doesn’t significantly detract from the overall viewing experience. The auditory enhancements provide a robust, immersive soundscape that complements the visual improvements well, ensuring that the film’s atmosphere and intensity are maintained, if not heightened.

    Conclusively, while "VFW" in 4K UHD may not represent the pinnacle of technological advancement within the format, it stands as a commendable effort in preserving the integrity of a genre piece while enhancing its sensory impact. It’s recommended for aficionados of the genre or collectors looking to experience the best possible version of the film. Though it may harbor minor shortcomings in narrative execution and supporting performances, these do not mar the overall enjoyment and appreciation for the film’s dedication to delivering a visceral, unabashedly retro experience.