Life - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Life

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Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:
Final Score: :4stars:



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Movie

The first thing that you’re going to think of when you see the trailer for Life is “this looks a lot like Alien”. Well, that’s because it IS a lot like Alien in many ways. The theme of a big scary monster hunting the crew of a space ship in space is nothing new, even Alien borrowed it from other films, but most of us think back to that seminal film due to how insanely popular and influential Ridley Scott’s masterpiece has been on space cinema. I was initially rather turned off by Life due to the very obvious looking similarities. I didn’t want to “sully” my beloved Alien with a knockoff, but I LOVE my sci-fi, so there was no way around the fact that I WAS going to check it out. After watching the film a couple of times, I have to say that I actually really like it. There are some obvious clichés and sci-fi tropes that are re-used from a dozen other films, but it’s intense and rather creepy. Something that I didn’t think it would be after being so desensitized to horror and sci-fi films, but I can attribute much of the scares to the creators going back to the old-style use of horror (much like Alien) instead of your typical jump scares or blood n gore.

The international space station has just taken on a probe that has traveled all the way from Mars (everyone’s new “frontier” in the world of space travel due to the upcoming trip there in a few dozen years) with all sorts of samples to analyze, and the crew of the space station are MORE than eager to check it out. There’s the standard rock and mineral samples, but lo and behold, the crew actually finds life in the form of a microscopic entity. They and everyone on Earth are ecstatic, and while the champagne is being broken out back home, the crew are at work inspecting the little creature, dubbed Calvin. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this is going to turn south in a hurry, and south is exactly where it goes when Calvin starts replicating faster and faster, eventually causing a breach in their security.

Munching on the lead scientist (played by Ariyon Bakare), it starts to feed and grow, becoming more intelligent as it grows and more cunning in the way that it hunts down its prey. One by one the small crew is taken out, until there are only three left. CDC analyst Miranda North (the bewitching Rebecca Ferguson), Pilot David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), and Sho Murakami (the ever present Japanese Hiroyuki Sanada). With a monstrous being of incredible power and cunning closing in on them, the three remaining survivors have to figure out a way to keep Calvin contained in deep space before he finds a way to overpower them all and ride the descending space station down into a decaying orbit, right into an unsuspecting world.

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The biggest boon and biggest curse of Life is the simplicity of the film. There’s no massive backstory, no big romance to figure out. Instead it’s a very focused story about survival with a nasty bad monster chasing you. In that it really DOES remind me a lot of Alien and that is one of the biggest good things about the movie. On the other hand, that simplicity is also Life’s biggest downfall. The characters have a hard time being emotionally resonate, as they don’t have any big back story. Sho is an expecting father, David is the guy who’s spent too much time in space, while the other is the mysterious CDC operative with a hidden agenda. That really isn’t a big thing though, because those are just elements thrown at you over the course of a few minutes and the rest of the time they’re running from Calvin. As such, there’s very little time to bond with them and instead we’re left seeing the crew as expendables to be munched on by our resident alien visitor.

Despite those flaws, I felt the movie was surprisingly well acted. Gyllenhaal, Ferguson and even Ryan Reynolds did a great job and the energy they exuded helped make the rather generic space thriller a lot more fun that it should have been. My only complaint besides characterization is the fact that EVERYONE knew that there would be a twist at end thanks to the front cover having it splashed all over. A bit annoying as you’re constantly trying to guess what it is, and by the time the ending scene comes up you’ve already figured it out. Not a huge deal with the film being as simple as it is, but something I wish would have been kept hidden better.




Rating:

Rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror




Video: :4stars:
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Life was filmed on Arri Alexa cameras and supposedly at 3.4K before being mastered down to a 2K D.I. and being upscaled for this 4K release. Even though this is one of the ones that comes from a 2K master, Life enjoys a very healthy upgrade over the 1080p counterpart. Details on facial closeups being the one caveat. Textures and fine details across the dark blue/grey of the space station show some nice upticks, but it’s really during the final act of the movie when the scenery switches AWAY from the space station that you really see the substantial upgrades. The brighter, cleaner and much glossier look of deep space and Earth itself show off incredible details and colors that jump pop off the screen with some stunning use of HDR. Black levels are deeper and inkier than ever, and the banding that I noticed in the Blu-ray was nowhere to be found on this encode.







Audio: :5stars:
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I mentioned this in my Blu-ray review of Life, but the Atmos track on the 4K UHD disc and the 7.1 DTS-HD MA mix on the Blu-ray are NOT that much different. Again, this is not a knock on the Atmos track (which is incredible by the way), but a huge congratulations to the 7.1 mix, which is so stunning that it simply closed the gap between the two tracks by being THAT good. Basically, take all of the good points that I raved about in my Blu-ray review and add some overhead use that simply creates a slightly more immersive feeling. The LFE is thunderous and powerful when needed, and the surrounds are pinpoint precise with the creaking and groaning of the giant space station. Dialog is above reproach, and simply put, this a perfect audio track. Well done Sony.






Extras: :2.5stars:
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• Deleted Scenes
Life: In Zero G
• Creating Life: The Art and Reality of Calvin
• Claustrophobic Terror: Creating a Thriller in Space
• Astronaut Diaries
• Trailers







Final Score: :4stars:


Life may not be the perfect clone of Alien that we might have wanted, but I was rather entertained and though it was a much better film than other critics give it credit for. There were some stereotypical space/horror clichés that got overused, and the front of the cover unfortunately gives away that there will be an obvious twist ending (one that is pretty easy to see coming if you KNOW that there’s a twist ending), but it was a nice throwback to a style of film making that hasn’t really been seen since the late 90s. The video is solid, and the audio is nothing short of incredible, making it the perfect audio demo disc for 2017. Once more the real decision is "do I chose the 4K UHD or The Blu-ray?". My recommendation WILL go to the 4K disc once more. The video is a very noticeable upgrade over the 1080p disc and while the audio mix for the 7.1 DTS-HD MA and the Atmos are NOT dissimilar, the added overheads gives it an ever so slight lead in that department. Still recommended for a good watch.
.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Written by: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Czech, English, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish DD 5.1
Studio: Sony
Rated: R
Runtime: 104 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 20th, 2017







Recommendation: Good Watch

 

Todd Anderson

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Hmmm... this almost sounds like a good candidate to just buy/watch on 1080p BD.

Nice review Mike!
 

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Thanks for the review Mike. I wasn't sure about buying so luckily my Family Video had a 4K copy for rental. The trailers for this intrigued me while it was in theaters but I never pulled the trigger. I'll be sitting down with it tonight.
 

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I'm picking up my copy later after work today. I will be watching this one this afternoon before my family gets home. I've heard a lot of mixed reviews, but it still seems like the movie I would enjoy. I'm purposefully glancing over the plot details and synopsis in the reviews that I am reading as I don't want to spoil the ending or any hints at the ending.

Ever since watching MI: Rogue Nation, Rebecca Ferguson has been on my watch list. I thought she was phenomenal in that movie and am always looking forward to seeing what she does next.
 

Michael Scott

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Hmmm... this almost sounds like a good candidate to just buy/watch on 1080p BD.

Nice review Mike!
I'd still go with the 4K UHD if you have the equipment. the 4K quality IS noticeable compared to the BD... the audio is just very similar due to how well done the 7.1 mix is
 

JBrax

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Hmmm... this almost sounds like a good candidate to just buy/watch on 1080p BD.

Nice review Mike!
This is blasphemy Todd. You're setup for 4K so I think you need to enjoy the fruits of it.
 

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And.... taking cover!!!! :hide:

Let's just forget this happened...:surrender:
 

Michael Scott

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yeah Todd. not sure what was going through your mind :)
 

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I watched this last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm still a tad perplexed at the ending and the lead up to the ending, but it didn't bother me enough to dissuade me from enjoying the movie as a whole.

As for the image, wow does this look good most of the time! I have to put the caveat of "most of the time" because the blacks aren't quite as inky as I would have hoped on my OLED. Some of the space shots had slightly elevated blacks and especially after watching John Wick 2 twice last week, which had amazing blacks 99% of the time, this one just fell a little bit short there.

Detail, highlights, and colors on the other hand looked awesome!

Yeah, Todd... what were you thinking saying you were just going to watch this in 1080p?! hahaha
 

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I also watched it and although I wasn't crazy about the ending it was enjoyable. Audio and video was top notch to boot! That little fella had quite the mean streak.
 

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Sorry guys. I had a *moment* yesterday.

Won't happen again. :sad:
 

Jon Liu

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Haha, all is forgiven. :)
 

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Hmmm... this almost sounds like a good candidate to just buy/watch on 1080p BD.

Nice review Mike!
I would tend to agree with you Todd. I jumped on several 4k UHD's only to be decidedly underwhelmed, compared to the blu Ray version. Also, many of the 4k discs I bought I only watched once. I'm all for supporting a new format, but it needs to offer significant advantages over the standard blu ray, imho.
 

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Yeah... agree (and welcome to AV NIRVANA)... I am not seeing the improvement on a few of the 4K disc I purchased. While it looks good, so does the 2K copy. I am left hoping (or relying on Mike's review) as to whether or not they will be better.
 

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Yeah... agree (and welcome to AV NIRVANA)... I am not seeing the improvement on a few of the 4K disc I purchased. While it looks good, so does the 2K copy. I am left hoping (or relying on Mike's review) as to whether or not they will be better.
Thanks for the welcome. I greatly appreciate the relaxed, courteous tone I've seen here. I noticed several names from Home Theater Shack: is that site still up and running? I'm unable to access it via Tapatalk.
 

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They are still around, but dried up for the most part. Most of the staff is here now and many of the members are learning we are all over here at AV NIRVANA.

They may have disable Tapatalk. A lot of sites are going responsive now, so programs like Tapatalk are no longer needed.
 
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