The Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Is a Big, Beautiful Box Full of Great Movies

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The Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection Is a Big, Beautiful Box Full of Great Movies

Columbia’s gorgeous new box set features six films released between 1939 and 1996, with only one common trait uniting them: they were all produced by Columbia Pictures. (If A League of Their Own hadn’t inexplicably been totally shut out by the Academy Awards, they all would’ve been Oscar nominees, too.) It’s a curious grab bag of beloved classics and award winners, but its variety ensures that there’s something for almost every movie fan in here—and the serious cinema buff will no doubt want most or all of them in their collection.

Here’s what you get in this box: 4K UHD Blu-ray copies of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Strangelove, Gandhi, A League of Their Own, and Jerry Maguire. (See? There’s almost nothing in common between these movies.) They’re all native 4K, meaning they aren’t simply being upscaled by the hardware, and thus look crisper, cleaner and better than they ever have on your home TV before. Audio mixes have been optimized for whatever kind of home theater setup you might have, and every movie is supplemented by a wealth of extras. It also comes with a hardcover book full of photos, essays, and notes on the restoration and remixing process, and the whole package is contained in a large gatefold box that’ll look good on just about any shelf. These are the definitive home editions of all of these movies, and if you’re looking to pick ‘em all up it’s convenient to have them in a single package.

Unsurprisingly, the 4K version of Lawrence of Arabia is the most impressive of these six. David Lean’s breathtaking masterpiece has always been a movie that basically required a screen as outsized as its grandeur—the kind of movie you really need to see in a 70 mm print. Watching it on 4K on a 65” TV with surround sound may not be quite the same, but it’s still an epic, overwhelming presentation for one of the most glorious films ever produced by Hollywood.

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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Dr. Strangelove, two black-and-white films from very different eras with very different opinions on politics and governance, both benefit from the deeper range of shades and colors made possible by the HDR10 format. There’s a rich contrast between blacks and grays that highlights the framing and composition of these shots, making them look livelier than they’ve looked in ages. Mr. Smith’s ultimate belief in the power of one righteous individual in the face of institutional corruption might feel utterly alien today, but you’ll sagely nod your head alongside all the corruption depicted before that famous filibuster. And Dr. Strangelove, with its jaundiced depiction of a cynical military-industrial complex, is just as relevant today as it was when it came out over 50 years ago. (It’s as hilarious as ever, too.)

Those three films are the best of the bunch, all true classics that have left indelible imprints on the medium and the culture at large. That doesn’t mean the other three movies are slouches, though. Gandhi is another epic buoyed by a fantastic (if culturally questionable) central performance by Ben Kingsley, and Jerry Maguire is a justifiably popular mainstream confection with strong turns by Renée Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr., and some guy you might’ve heard of named Tom Cruise. The 4K versions are technically superb, and if you’re a fan of these films you won’t find anything to complain about.

Despite not landing any Oscar nominations, A League of Their Own is the best of these other three films, and once again, this is the definitive home version of the movie. Penny Marshall’s historical dramedy about a professional women’s baseball league that started play during World War II shows what happens when the Hollywood system fires on all cylinders. It’s a well-made, well-meaning piece of polished, professional entertainment with legitimate emotional depth and a lineup full of good-to-great performances, with Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Tom Hanks splitting the MVP award. It might be the least awarded film in the bunch, but it comes closer to living up to the legacy of the box’s three earlier classics than the other modern films. And hey, what a shock: this version looks and sounds amazing.

This box set is the only way to own any of these movies in 4K for now. Who knows if that’ll change in time. Still, if you’re the kind of movie fan who still likes to own physical copies, and in the best possible format, to boot, I doubt you’d mind owning any of these films. I’d say the box set is worth it for the three older movies alone, but there’s not a bad pick in the bunch, and I could easily see the reputation and stature of A League of Their Own continue to grow the older it gets. If you’re a collector of physical media, a movie fan with a 4K home theater, or know anybody who is, Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection is pretty much an essential purchase, and an ideal gift.

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