Collecting six films from their catalog - Sony releases Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Collection Vol. 2. delivers Anatomy of a Murder, Oliver!, Taxi Driver, Stripes, Sense and Sensibility, and The Social Network. The hard sell of the collections has been gathering six films that people will want to actually pay a hefty premium price for. If you're a fan of some of these, there's enough of an improvement in each film's respective A/V presentation and bonus features collection to justify a purchase. If you're only up for one or two, that price tag may be a stretch. Taken as a whole, Columbia Classics Vol 2 is another impressive release. All six films gain notable A/V improvements over past disc releases, some looking better than they have in decades. Ultimately for what this set has to offer, it comes Highly Recommended.
"There is a simple but great reason for Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder being considered one of the best trial films ever made, not just by movie-lovers but even in the eyes of legal experts. Based on the 1958 novel of the same name by Robert Traver, pen name of Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker, the courtroom drama is arguably the closest audiences will come to a realistic criminal trial presented on screen. Granted, Wendell Mayes's script does come with a few fictionalized flourishes and takes some creative license so as to slightly raise the stakes and build the dramatic tension, a warranted necessity for keeping viewers invested for the entirety of its 160-minute runtime. But where other movies severely hyperbolize that tension for a histrionic conclusion, Preminger's film impressively details the mechanics behind mounting a defense along with the amount of research and planning involved in winning a case." 4.5/5
"No matter how often I watch Sir Carol Reed's boisterously spirited Oliver!, I always seem to find myself at odds with one particular aspect of what is otherwise a stunning musical production of a splendid Charles Dicken's classic. That area of concern is some of the lively musical numbers not really harmonizing with the somber seriousness of certain situations. Memorable as they are, a few songs, honestly, fail to heighten the emotional gravity of a character's plight at the moment. Most notably is the "As Long as He Needs Me" number, and as much as I love Shani Wallis's performance as Nancy, who is truly phenomenal in the role, the character essentially justifying her abuse at the hands of Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed) doesn't really carry the sad, heart-rending weight that was presumably intended. In fact, it's difficult to even argue the entire sequence is meant to be ironic, as part of Nancy's internal struggle, because the music weirdly plays as both upbeat and glum while the camerawork is distressingly uplifting." 3.5/5
"With much already been discussed and analyzed about Martin Scorsese's crime drama Taxi Driver, there is little else that could possibly be said, especially compared to David Krauss's excellent review. So, I'll simply share my reasons for absolutely loving Scorsese's masterful tale about a young disillusioned man's downward spiral into alarmingly disturbed behavior. To this day, there remains some debate over the film's epilogue, the entire sequence of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) being released from the hospital and working as a cabby again. If taken as reality, the denouement possibly signifies his descent into psychotic vigilante starting all over again since the root of his psychosis and alienation was never addressed. However, the sequence also works as a final, spontaneous comatic reverie of a deranged dying man imagining himself heralded as a hero by the media and suddenly desired by the woman who spurned him. In either case, it's part of the film's brilliance and Scorsese's mastery leaving this ending for viewers to decide." 5/5
"In the pantheon of military comedies, Stripes may not lead the pack, but it’s a damn funny entry nonetheless. What I like about this one, in particular, is that it’s not out to make the military the butt of a joke but instead has fun with the idea that a slacker like Winger could survive the service. The interplay with Murray and Warren Oates’ Hulka is gold. Oates plays it straight as can be letting Murray’s brand of subtle humor shine as a result. Ramis also shines as the affable Ziskey. I love that he’s the “smart” one of the pair but so often gets pulled into a bad situation because he’s also spineless against Winger’s prodding. After that, we have to give a mention to John Candy’s lovable Ox. It may be a small role, but he steals every scene." 4/5
"As Ang Lee’s first English language film, he shows that steady hand behind the camera of a director confident in the screenplay. He's not adding "style" to make up for substance. It’s not full of wild camera flourishes, it’s even-handed and designed to capture the emotion of each moment letting his terrific cast do their best work. Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice are the only two Austen novels I enjoyed and they’ve both earned impressive film and television adaptations. But Sense and Sensibility remains my favorite film. Emma Thompson did a hell of a job capturing the essence of the novel and distilling it down into a manageable theatrical runtime. She dutifully deserved that Oscar making her the first person to win Academy Awards in Acting and Writing (although not in the same year)." 5/5
"When The Social Network hit theaters in 2010 it was easily one of the best movies of the year. Not my personal favorite of the year but certainly high up the list. In 11 years since its release, it remains a far and away more important and infinitely better film than that year’s Best Picture Oscar-winner The King’s Speech. Actually, every other movie nominated that year was better than that hacky piece of nonsense. The Social Network remains an important film because unlike other social platforms that have disappeared or faded out of favor - Facebook is still with us, and it’s a hot-button topic." 4.5/5
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 6-Film Collection Vol 2 arrives from Sony in a beautiful deluxe boxset that mirrors the first volume only with red accent colors instead of black. Again, the set opens up in a gatefold box with three older classic films on the left side with three new contemporary fan-favorites on the right. In the middle is another booklet containing 80-pages of photos and essays and information about each film. Each film gets its own sturdy black 4K multi-disc case with glossy slipcover. A Digital Copy slip is included with codes for all six films on the single slip - the codes can be redeemed via Sony's portal or through Movies Anywhere where they'll populate to every service you have linked.
Anatomy of a Murder
"Coming from a fresh remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives, possibly the same used for its HD predecessor, the native 4K transfer shows razor-sharp detailing for a majority of the runtime. We can better make out the fabric and stitching in the various costumes, the lettering along the book spines decorating Biegler's house and the individual faces crowding the courtroom. A few spots drop ever so slightly in terms of overall resolution and quality, which are likely inherent to the OCN and easily forgiven, but by and large, the elements appear to be in pristine condition, awash with a fine layer of natural grain giving the HDR10 presentation a lovely film-like quality."
"The award-winning musical picks the pockets of Ultra HD fitted with a charmingly handsome HEVC H.265 encode, which was struck from a brand new restoration and remaster of the original 35mm camera negatives. Compared to its previous two Blu-ray releases, the native 4K transfer sports a welcomed uptick in overall definition and clarity, showing slightly better detailing in the threading and stitching of the costumes. The fine lines and objects in the stage design are plain to make out, giving fans another level of appreciation for the amount of work that went into every elaborate scene and composition. A few moments of softness and very slight poor resolution are sprinkled here and there but are to be expected and forgiven. The real win ultimately comes from the overall consistency and fidelity of the picture, awash in a fine layer of natural grain, which is stable and furnishes the 2.35:1 image with a lovely, film-like quality."
"The smallest imperfections in the buildings and the streets of New York City are distinct, every strand of hair is sharp, and the lettering in the political signs, billboards and handwritten notes are consistently legible. A spot-on contrast balance furnishing a brighter picture and clean, vivid whites throughout allows for stunning visibility in the far distance of the daylight sequences. Specular highlights further make the 4K video pop, as the neon lights intensely glow while revealing the finer details, the watery streets and the individual water droplets glisten and the metallic surfaces have a realistic sheen. A few sequences understandably fall short of its best, sharpest moments and are poorly resolved, mostly notably the climactic shootout. But all in all, the transfer offers an impressive upgrade over its HD SDR predecessors, awash in a fine layer of grain that's mostly consistent yet furnishes the results with a lovely film-like quality."
"Stripes has never had a great home video history. The first Blu-ray release offered up little to no improvement over the DVD so I never bothered to upgrade. Plugging in this native 4K 2160p HDR10 transfer was like seeing the movie again for the first time! I was immediately impressed with the detail clarity and how well this transfer manages film grain. Past Blu-ray and DVD transfers really struggled with it often being left with a noisy and unsatisfying image. Film grain is retained here but is well resolved and organic without ever appearing too noisy. Image clarity lets you fully appreciate all of the small details.
HDR10 also gives this film a lovely boost in the colors, black levels, and contrast. Colors appear well saturated with nice deep blues, yellows, and reds. Army uniforms are appropriately olive drab. Black levels are better than I’ve ever seen them. Past releases suffered from some heavy crush issues and that’s not an issue. The heavy black night scene when Winger tries to go AWOL or when the group hits the strip club, blacks are nice and inky with great shadow separation and image depth."
Sense & Sensibility
"It seems forever ago when Twilight Time was a premier label for Blu-ray releases - but back in 2015 they managed the rights from Sony for a lovely release of Sense and Sensibility. It wasn’t picture-perfect, it had some odd compression artifacts, but it was very good. Now fully upgraded to a native 4K 2160p HDR10 1.85:1 transfer, this film earns the stunning release it always deserved. Detail levels, colors, grain management, black levels - all gain substantial improvements. The only “rough” patch of note is around the opening credits where the image can appear a little crunchy because of the optical processing. Once those credits are over it’s smooth sailing to the final fadeout.
As a costumed period piece, you expect some incredible details and this film delivers. Facial features, makeup, patterns, and individual stitches in clothing are all apparent. Small details like the fine print in books or Margaret’s atlas are much more clearly defined. When the Dashwoods arrive at their new cottage, you can fully appreciate the weathered condition better than in past home video releases. Again the clothing and production design are the eye-catchers - this film more than earned its Costume Design Oscar nomination."
The Social Network
"Shot digitally and finished on a 2K Digital Intermediate - The Social Network arrives with an upscaled 2160p Dolby Vision (and HDR10) transfer that offers some improvements over the 2011 Blu-ray. However, with the source limitations and the dark cinematography, this one doesn’t quite offer up as notable an A/B difference as the other films in the Columbia Classics Vol 2 collection.
That isn’t to say that this Ultra HD transfer is unworthy of attention or praise. Details remain strong and clear. There’s some extra refinement in fine facial features and clothing textures. The opening credits with Mark traveling Harvard’s campus gave a little extra clarity in building details, bricks, leaves in the trees, and the students scurrying around campus. After the fallout of Facemash and Mark is in his class, wide shot details are cleaner. Again, not huge night and day improvements over the old disc, but enough so to check that particular box."
Anatomy of a Murder
"In a surprise and unexpected move, Sony slaps the defense with a highly satisfying and impressive Dolby Atmos soundtrack that immediately fills the entire soundstage with Duke Ellington's high octane score. Imaging continuously feels wide and welcoming with outstanding channel balance, providing the drama with a fantastic sense of presence and sharp definition in the mid-range. This allows for exceptional clarity and distinction in the horn section of Ellington's music as it flawlessly bleeds and rings into the sides and top heights without ever once feeling forced or artificial. The same goes for a few ambient effects occasionally moving across the screen and into the surrounds and overhead, such as some of the local wildlife singing in the distance or the clatter of the courtroom echoing all around. All the while, dialogue reproduction remains distinct and precise in the center with superb intonation in each dramatic performance. Most surprising is an ample, robust low-end that provides some of the visuals with an energetic, weighty presence, making for a great listen to a tensely powerful classic."
"The classic film sings and dances into home theaters with an outstanding Dolby Atmos soundtrack that perfectly complements the visuals. The design is not the sort to test one's system or rival with the more bombastic contemporary musicals. However, from the moment the overture and opening credits are on display, John Green's score enthusiastically fills the room and flawlessly echoes into the surrounds and top heights, generating a fantastically broad and highly engaging half-dome soundstage. Every number from there benefits from the extra breathing as subtle background activity convincingly bounces between the channels, maintaining a great sense of spaciousness, while exhibiting superb distinction in the mid-range and excellent separation in the orchestration."
"For this Ultra HD edition, the classic crime drama drives into home theaters with an identical DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as the 40th Anniversary Blu-ray. As much as an object-based option would have been greatly appreciated, this surround soundtrack is nonetheless an excellent lossless mix, especially when applying the receiver's Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality. This outfits the front-heavy design with a broader and more spacious presence, as various atmospherics convincingly pan across the entire soundstage while the score subtly and faintly bleeds into the sides and top heights without seeming forced or artificial. Also, the mid-range exhibits superb distinction and clarity throughout while vocals are precise and crystal clear, and an appropriately hearty low-end supplies some appreciable weight to the visuals."
"The platoon of Stripes invades your sound system with a trio of audio options - a new Dolby Atmos audio mix, a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track. Normally in this case I would be more of a traditionalist and roll the 2.0 Mono - but I gotta hand it to Sony for crafting one heck of a great Atmos mix. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much but they really did find some unique ways to spread out the soundscape in an organic way that doesn’t sound forced or artificial. From the opening scenes in New York to when the boys first get to basic training to their invasion of East Germany, there’s a lot to absorb.
For the quietest conversational moments, the mix is pretty front/center focused. But in large group scenes or dynamic locations, it really opens up with some terrific surround activity. The mortar course where Hulka gets blown up is a great example of where things start front/center, open up to surround, and then slam in a delightful overhead effect of the round flying over and down into the screen. Then immediately following that is the mud wrestling sequence which has constant surround and overhead activity and amazing LFE thanks to the bass track from The Spinners' classic funk hit “Rubberband Man!”
Sense & Sensibility
"This release also comes with a pair of audio mixes to work with - the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, that I found to be a bit on the limp side and a new Atmos track that is surprisingly immersive. This isn’t a loud and active film so the extra channels are mostly used to set the scene. Old houses with creaky floorboards, people opening and closing doors, the gentle swish of the fabric in large dresses all carry more impact throughout the channels as do gentle breezes and gusts of wind through leaves and grasses."
The Social Network
"The biggest improvement The Social Network has to offer on 4K Ultra HD is with this new Atmos mix. The feeling of space and atmosphere is impressive. From the opening moments in the bar to the thumping house music of the clubs to the stifling claustrophobia of the deposition rooms, each location offers a unique auditory experience. Height channels don’t offer up a lot of pinpoint object placement effects but they’re well utilized for echo or crowd sounds to fill the soundscape. Surround channels are subtly active but the mix is never overly silent or too front/center." 5/5
A big box set like Columbia Classics Vol 2 is always a tough sell. Like the first volume, it collected three true archive classics with three contemporary fan favorites. Sony at least sought the input of fans with a massive survey letting them vote on a wide variety of titles from different eras and genres. So, in a roundabout way, it can be argued we're getting exactly what we asked for with these sets.
The problem is there's just no pleasing everyone. As these are the first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray releases for these particular titles, there's a lot of demand for them - at least on an individual title basis. For me - I've actually liked each volume Sony has collected thus far. Jerry Maguire was the odd man out last time, and this time it's the musical Oliver!. I'm just not a musical guy. But the other five films in the set are excellent choices justifying the purchase price. And that becomes the issue with a set like this - how many do you actually want? For those folks that only want one or two, that's pretty steep and I wish Sony was a little quicker and/or more upfront about their plans to release these titles individually.
But for those who feel this set is in their wheelhouse, it's worth it. Anatomy of a Murder is one of the finest courtroom thrillers ever made and it looks and sounds amazing. Oliver! may not be one of my favorites but I know several people who love it and would enjoy watching it fully restored in 4K. Taxi Driver is well, Taxi Driver. Simply put it's one of the best movies ever made and Martin Scorsese is at his best behind the camera with Robert De Niro delivering one of his best performances and it's amazing in 4K. Stripes was a surprising addition but this classic military comedy delivers some genuine belly laughs and now looks and sounds better than ever. Sense and Sensibility is a terrific Jane Austen adaptation with Ang Lee directing and Emma Thompson starring and writing making a lovely worthwhile addition to 4K. The Social Network was one of the best movies of the decade and while it may not shine quite as brightly on 4K as the rest of this set, the Atmos audio makes up for it. At the end of many long days of watching and reviewing these films, Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Collection Vol 2 comes Highly Recommended.