Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End make up a wittily clever and marvelously ingenious series of films that lovingly satirize the zombie-horror, action, and sci-fi genres. The loosely-connected trilogy continues to be just as hilariously entertaining today as when they first hit cinemas. The gang comes together on Ultra HD with a strong, good-looking 4K HDR10 presentations, better DTS:X soundtracks, and the same set of bonuses as the previous Blu-ray set. Recommended for devoted fans.
Shaun of the Dead
Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead is, at once, a passionate love-letter to the George A. Romero Dead films where a horde of slow-walking zombies provide social commentary and a response to the rage-fueled zombies of Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, briefly referenced in passing. However, the horror-comedy is also a delightfully twisted rom-com with brains and a beating pulse writhing beneath a plot about a group of friends surviving the end of times.
On the eve of a zombie outbreak, our titular would-be hero (an excellent Simon Pegg) has been dumped by his girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) for his lack of ambition and for falling into a boring routine. But before he sinks further into a hole of sluggishly meandering through life without a sense of purpose or direction, the collapse and ruin of his world forces him to step up, be decisive and fight to live. Stuck between societal expectations of success as represented by housemate Pete (Peter Serafinowicz) or a lethargic, juvenile existence as exemplified by best friend Ed (Nick Frost), both of which come with their negative, zombie-like drawbacks, Shaun must choose to grow up.
The now cult classic is an ingeniously clever coming-of-age tale that also delivers on the shockingly gory zombie goods. (Movie Rating: 5/5)
The trio of friends — Wright, Pegg, and Frost — follow the unexpected success of their first team-up with another adoring homage to the genre-specific movies of their youth. The sequel-in-spirit doesn't quite reach levels of its predecessor, but Hot Fuzz erupts on the screen with an infectious hyperactive enthusiasm energized by rapid-fire jokes and visual gags.
We're immediately sucked into a story about an over-achieving police officer, hilariously named Nicholas Angel (Pegg), reassigned to a rural village known for being free of crime and where the most police action is chasing after an escaped swan, which is a witty send-up of Chekhov's gun. Once partnered with Frost's bumbling man-child Danny Butterman — another hilarious name — the movie makes its intentions clear as a parody of the ridiculously over-the-top, blockbuster action flicks of the 1980s and 90s. But unlike Shaun, which threw in intertextual allusions with a bit more subtlety and clever finesse, Hot Fuzz is more self-aware and even exists within a world where the very action movies its parodies also exist and are regularly consumed.
That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing and is pretty amusing since movies rarely show that level of awareness. But where it loses a bit of steam is the odd, out-of-place occult angle behind a string of unsolved murders although the motivations are just too preposterously daft that we can't help but laugh at the rustic idiocy. And honestly, by film's end, the smooth blend of western tropes and themes — you know, the "there's a new sheriff in town" motif — with mystery thriller elements wrapped in the warm, cozy blanket of the buddy-cop action genre and John Woo clichés always leaves a satisfied smile. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
The World's End
In some respects, The World's End is the trio's return to form, of going back to the same well from which they culled Shaun and even from which they took inspiration for this plot. Once again, we follow an immature grown man (again played by Pegg) without direction or ambition. In fact, the filmmakers take the conceit a step further with Pegg's Gary King seemingly never having developed beyond adolescence — or more specifically, still living in the glory days of his youth. It's made all the worse since he clearly possesses very selective memories of that period in his life and continues to obsessively cling to a grossly romanticized recollection of a pub crawl called the "Golden Mile." When reconnecting his childhood friends for another attempt at completing the crawl, the story slowly evolves into a marvelously ingenious and inventive allegory on alcoholism and the sometimes disappointing challenges of adulthood.
Like the previous two films, the third and final entry in what has come to be affectionately known as The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy is at once a loving send-up and tribute to sci-fi cinema and literature, taking inspiration from the likes of John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, the adventures of Professor Quatermass, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The Stepford Wives (1975). But hiding underneath, patiently waiting to overwhelm and reward fans with repeated viewings, is a hilarious obstacle course of side-splitting in-jokes, amusingly witty foreshadowing devices and brilliantly clever allusions to deeper, more profound themes. The twelve-pub crawl itself is essentially a twisted, comical version of the twelve-step program with each bar loosely reflecting Gary's road to recovery and growth.
In short, The World's End is just as hysterically entertaining as it is absolutely brilliant. From the obvious like Gary's entourage named after high-ranking royal officials — Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) — to the more subtle and cunning like each pub's name being suggestive of events that are about to unfold, the trilogy ends on a wildly satisfying high. (Movie Rating: 4.5/5)
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out Luke Hickman's review of the 2013 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Celebrating fifteen years since The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy first landed in cinemas, Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings Shaun of the Dead / Hot Fuzz / The World's End to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a six-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copies of each film. When redeeming said code via MoviesAnywhere, users have access to the 4K HDR10 digital version with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. A trio of dual-layered UHD66 discs are joined by the same three Region Free, BD50 discs as 2013 Blu-ray package, and all six are housed inside a slightly larger than normal black, eco-elite case with two center spindles and a glossy slipcover. At startup, each UHD disc goes straight to an animated screen with full-motion clips, the usual menu options along the left side and music playing in the background.
Shaun of the Dead
The cult comedy classic rises from the dead with a generally pleasing and strong HEVC H.265 encode, offering slightly better shelter than the Blu-ray but doesn't quite always make the jump over the fence. Lumbering from the same 2K digital intermediate grave as its predecessor, the upscaled transfer shows a welcomed uptick and a bit sharper lines in the streets, furniture and various objects decorating the background. The stitching and fabric of clothing are detailed, and facial complexions are highly revealing with lifelike textures in close-ups. However, there is also a fair amount of softness and poorly-resolved sequences, especially during the final quarter when trapped in the Winchester as the zombie horde barges through, but this is more the result of the original photography, not a fault of the encode.
Contrast and brightness also display a small improvement, but it's not a significant difference over its HD SDR counterpart. Much of the 4K video is darker, but whites are a tad crisper and cleaner while black levels are notably richer with great delineation and gradations. However, there is a smidge of posterization in the hottest spots and very mild crush in the darkest corners of the Winchester, but specular highlights enjoy a slight boost and radiance without a loss of detail. Colors arguably benefit most with primaries, in particular, looking fuller and animated, especially the strawberry red shades in Shaun's tie versus the crimson garnet in the gore and blood. Meanwhile, secondary hues are more nuanced but nonetheless a bit more varied and accurately rendered, and the flesh tones of the cast are a rosier peachy shade. Awash in a fine layer of natural grain, the 2.35:1 image is good looking and film-like. (HDR10 Video Rating: 74/100)
With guns blazing and sirens blaring, the buddy cops charge into Ultra HD strapped with a good-looking HEVC H.265 encode. Reassigned from a 2K digital intermediate, the upscaled transfer may not be leaps and bounds over its Blu-ray counterpart, but it's a welcomed step up nonetheless, displaying a nice boost in contrast. Specular highlights are slightly crunchier with a bit more punch in the hottest spots and crisper whites.
Black levels are also truer with excellent gradational differences and great detailing in the darkest, inkiest shadows. Primaries enjoy a notable, subtle bump, especially in the animated crimson reds of blood and the spirited electrifying blues in the clothing and overall cinematography. Likewise, the HDR10 presentation shows a small improvement in the other hues with slightly better variation and gradation in the marigold yellows and the fiery amber oranges of the warm bar lighting.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the 4K video may not appear significantly sharper than its 1080p HD brethren, but it comes with moderately better definition and overall resolution. The small details in the background are a bit more distinct, the unique features of the village are discrete, and the little imperfections in the architecture and buildings are plainly visible. Facial complexions are highly revealing, especially during the many close-ups. Granted, the picture comes with its fair share of softer moments and some instances of mild aliasing, but all in all, this is a good-looking upgrade awash in a fine layer of grain. (HDR10 Video Rating: 76/100)
The World's End
The mindless collective of body-snatching aliens covertly infiltrates Ultra HD with a mostly satisfying if also somewhat underwhelming HEVC H.265 encode. The movie was originally shot on traditional 35mm film mixed with some 16mm footage for a few selective sequences, but those elements were later mastered to 2K digital intermediate. With that said, the upscaled transfer looks relatively similar to its 1080p HD counterpart, but a few moments sprinkled throughout show an appreciable uptick, especially during close-ups of the cast. The stitching in the clothes, the hair and the individual whiskers of Pierce Brosnan's goatee are distinct, and the fine lines in the town's architecture, the interior of bars and the various objects decorating the background are well-defined and plainly visible. It may not have successfully conquered it's Blu-ray predecessor, but on the whole, resolution is stable, consistent and attractive.
The cult sci-fi favorite ignites the screen with slightly improved contrast levels, displaying brighter, more radiant whites in the glowing eyes and mouths of the androids and the giant robot statue. Again, as mentioned above, the difference is not a dramatic jump over its HD SDR counterpart, but the specular highlights enjoy a welcomed boost, small as it may be, looking crisper and tighter. The 4K video is also showered in inky, stygian blacks and silky, midnight shadows while still delivering excellent visibility within the murkiest corners and providing the 2.35:1 image with appreciable depth.
The HDR10 presentation comes with richly saturated primaries, particularly the lively, energetic greens and the brilliantly vibrant blues, which goes with the trilogy's ice-cream theme. Secondary hues are a bit more nuanced and subtle, but they show better appear more animated and fuller, such as the golden amber of the beer, the warm yellow glow of the bars' lighting and the fiery-reddish oranges of the explosion at the end and the overall tint in the denouement. Flesh tones come with redder-peachiness with lifelike textures and complexions, making this a small but still welcomed upgrade. (HDR10 Video Rating: 76/100)
Shaun of the Dead
The zombie horde shambles into Ultra HD with a great and satisfying DTS:X soundtrack, and while it's not leaps and bounds better than its DTS-HD MA counterpart, it has its moments that occasionally heighten the action to pleasing effect. Most notably, the score and song selections expand into the surrounds and ceiling speakers to better immerse the viewer while the chaos of the city, barking dogs and screeching sirens convincingly echo all around and from above. Periodically, the overheads are employed to create a decently convincing hemispheric soundfield with the final minutes in the basement of the Winchester being a genuine highlight.
However, a few of the loudest, ear-piercing moments, like the sudden jump-scare noises, can come off rather bright and slightly distorted, as though pushed beyond their limits, yet overall, the mid-range is pretty stable and consistent with appreciable definition and clarity. Vocals are always precise and intelligible amid the most manic and chaotic segments. The low-end could be more powerful and commanding, but as it stands, bass provides some oomph and weight to the action and music with a couple good couch-shaking moments. (DTS:X Audio Rating: 82/100)
The action erupts on screen with an explosively good DTS:X soundtrack that is every part the equal of its lossless counterpart, making for an excellent but also arguably better listen. The most immediate improvement is the score and song selections awesomely expanding into the surrounds and ceiling speakers. The sides and rears are employed often with the bustling activities of the village, the voices of residents walking about or the chatter of patrons filling the bars. From time to time, those sounds smoothly bleed into the overheads along with a few other atmospherics, generating an amusing soundscape. It's not always consistent, but when the action kicks into high-gear with bullets zooming in every direction and debris scattering all around, the object-based mix makes for an effective enveloping soundfield.
As mentioned above, the music is the most impressive aspect, sprawling across the screen with a great deal of warmth and clean distinction in the instrumentation. Imaging is continuously expansive and feels spacious as a variety of background activity fluidly moves between the channels and convincingly extends into the top heights, exhibiting outstanding clarity and separation in the mid-range. Periodically, the loudest segments can come off a tad on the bright side, but the upgrade, on the whole, is clean without distortion. Vocals are also precise and very well-prioritized, but ultimately, the low-end is the real showstopper here. Bass is terrifically commanding and pulsatingly robust, providing the gunfire and explosions with a room-energizing presence that'll push subs to their limits. (DTS:X Audio Rating: 92/100)
The World's End
The invasion quietly tempts home theaters with an enjoyable DTS:X that while not demonstrating a notable improvement over its lossless counterpart, nonetheless complements the visuals well.
For a majority of the runtime, much of the action and attention feels contained in the front, starting with Gary's voiceover narration at the start before switching into Primal Scream's "Loaded" song. This makes for a welcoming and highly-engaging soundstage, as the music subtly bleeds into the top heights and background activity smoothly travels between the channels, creating a pleasing half-dome image. The mid-range is dynamic and fairly extensive with appreciable warmth and distinction during the loudest segments. Vocals are precise and well-prioritized, never drowned out by the mayhem. The low-end isn't particularly memorable or robust, but overall, bass is adequate and palpable with a couple couch-shaking moments that add weight to action.
Various effects discretely and fluidly pan between the surrounds, and the chatter of bar patrons fill the room to generate a satisfying soundfield. Occasionally, some of that noise echoes into the space above the listening area, nicely expanding the soundscape and feeling a bit more engaging. However, when walking about Newton Haven, the town almost feels devoid of life, never utilizing the sides, rears or ceiling channels, but it's possible this might be a deliberate creative choice, to better augment the town's eerie strangeness. Whatever the case, once the fight to be total "f*ck ups" erupts at The Beehive, the second half of the film is layered with a variety of atmospherics envelop the listener and at times, also lightly travel into the overheads with the Network's booming voice and the giant robot statue making their presence known. (DTS:X Audio Rating: 86/100)
For this UHD edition of the Cornetto Trilogy, Universal ports over the same assortment of supplements as the 2013 package and available on the accompanying Blu-ray discs.
Shaun of the Dead
The World's End
Affectionately known as The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg joined forces to produce a trilogy of comedies that celebrated, satirized and homage the films of their youth with each entry being a passionate, loving send-up to specific genres. While Shaun of the Dead borrows from the George A. Romero zombie movies to tell an ingeniously clever coming-of-age tale, Hot Fuzz commemorates the ridiculously over-the-top buddy-cop action flicks with preposterously giddy enthusiasm, and The World's End celebrates science fiction with a marvelously ingenious and inventive allegory on alcoholism and the challenges of adulthood.
All three films finally make their way to Ultra HD with good-looking if also somewhat mildly disappointing HDR10 presentations but better and largely satisfying DTS:X soundtracks. The jump from Blu-ray to 4K UHD may not show a significant improvement over its HD SDR and lossless audio counterparts, but the small upgrade is nonetheless appreciable and which loyal fans will probably be happy with. The same set of supplements are ported from the previous 2013 Blu-ray release, but the overall is recommended for horror-action-sci-fi fans everywhere.