• The Final Countdown (Blue Underground) 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review

    The Final Countdown (Blue Underground) 4k UHD/Blu-ray Review
    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: May 25th, 2021.
    Director: Don Taylor
    Cast: Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross, James Farentino, Ron O’Neal, Charles Durning
    Year: 1980
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    The Final Countdown – Movie Review:

    Blue Underground does fans of The Final Countdown right with their newly re-mastered 3-disc UHD/Blu-ray/Soundtrack CD combo special edition release, complete with a lenticular cover and a bit fat insert booklet!

    The film takes place in what was, at the time it was made, the present day of 1980. An aircraft carrier named the U.S.S. Nimitz, led by Captain Yelland (Kirk Douglas) heads out to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for some routine military maneuvers. A systems analyst named Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen) is on board in addition to their regular crew, and he is there to take a look at the ship’s efficiency statistics.

    Soon after they head out to sea, the crew of the ship runs into a bizarre electrical storm and loses all contact with U.S. Navy Headquarters. All onboard assume the worst, that a nuclear war with the U.S.S.R. has finally happened and the crew of the U.S.S. Nimitz prepare for what they assume to be the upcoming battle... and then they head straight into the wild looking blue portal that looms ominously in front of their ship. As the entirety of the aircraft carrier and its crew head in, things get trippy, and when they awake from all of this, the sea around them is calm and serene.

    It doesn’t take them long to figure out that they’ve actually traveled back in time though, because shortly after they wake up, they notice some World War II era Japanese Mitsubishi Zero planes buzzing around them. They also notice that Pearl Harbor is currently filled with World War II era battleships. This all leads them to the realization that they’ve been sent back to December 6th, 1941, the day before the monumental attacks that the Japanese launched against American forces at Pearl Harbor that caused the United States to enter the Second World War and which changed the course of history forever.

    Yelland, Lasky and the rest of the crew (made up of such thespians as Ron O’Neal and Charles Durning!) are now faced with the dilemma of whether or not to change history and prevent the attacks using both their foresight the advanced technology they have onboard their modern aircraft carrier or to let history take its course regardless of how many lives will eventually be lost because of it.

    The Final Countdown raises some interesting moral and political issues in its premise. It’s an interesting movie to sit down and think about after you watch it, despite the fact that it does suffer from some rather blatant clichés (the score stands out here…) and a plot that meanders a little bit. Kirk Douglas does a solid job, as always, in his role as the likeable Captain Yellar and Martin Sheen is equally effective as the pensive Warren Lansky. The rest of the supporting cast does a fine job as well, and the majority of those who we see on screen are believable and likeable character actors (watch for a fun cameo from executive producer Lloyd Kaufman!).

    The cinematography is nicely handled and there are plenty of epic, sweeping shots of the ocean and the planes and all of the impressive military hardware assembled for the film in action. Production values are actually really strong across the board in terms of the scope of the picture and the visuals created to bring it all to life. The film always looks good and the crew makes good use of their authentic military sets and intimidating oceanic setting.

    So while it’s not delivered with a lightning fast pace and some of the special effects haven’t aged as well as, say, those used in Blade Runner for example, The Final Countdown is an interesting movie that deals with time travel and history in a unique manner. The film delivers some scenes of true tension (when the Japanese pilot who finds himself in U.S. custody gets the machine gun, you’ll start paying attention if you weren’t earlier in the film – though really you should have been!) at a deliberate pace and is ultimately a solid film from start to finish.

    The Final Countdown – UHD Review:

    The Final Countdown arrives on UHD from Blue Underground on a 100GB disc in a 4k transfer of the original 35mm negative framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in an HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement. Like the rest of Blue Underground’s UHD release, this one also looks gorgeous. Colors are vastly improved over the previous Blu-ray release and look very natural throughout. The blues of the skies are really quite striking. As you’d hope, the image also contains a lot more depth to the film than we’ve ever seen on disc before, this is noticeable throughout the movie in both lighter and darker scenes. Skin tones look perfect, black levels are spot on, and the image always looks like film, showing no problems with any visible edge enhancement or noise reduction and retaining all of the film grain that should be there. Print damage is almost impossible to spot, the transfer is pretty much pristine. Really, it’s pretty hard to find anything to complain about here!

    New to this UHD release is a Dolby Atmos track in English that is a serious banger. When those jets take off from the aircraft carrier, they really roar, pulling you right into the action and adding a whole lot to the viewing experience. The sound effects placement is a really strong here, impressive throughout, just pay attention to all of the channels when the ship goes through the portal. At the same time, the dialogue stays nice and clear, never once difficult to understand. The score has great range, you can really make out the different instruments that are used in it. This sounds fantastic.

    Carried over from the Blu-ray release are English language options provided in 24-bit 5.1 DTS-HD and 16-bit 2.0 DTS-HD and a 24-bit 2.0 DTS-HD French language track. As far as subtitles go, we get English SDH, French and Spanish options.

    The extras on the 4k disc include a pair of theatrical trailers, a teaser trailer and a trio of TV spots. There’s also a commentary track with the director of photography, Victor J. Kemper, which is moderated by David Gregory. The track is primarily technical in nature and verges on the dull a few times, though there is some solid information that can be gleaned by those who don’t mind working a little harder than usual to pay attention to what’s being said. There are certainly better and more interesting commentary tracks out there (Blue Underground’s recent Fight For Your Life being a perfect example of just how great commentaries can be), but there are worse ones as well. You’re probably only going to be interested in this one if The Final Countdown ranks up there with your favorite films – it’s for die-hards only.

    The disc also includes Lloyd Kaufman Goes Hollywood is a fourteen-minute featurette in which the head of Troma Studios, who acted as executive producer on The Final Countdown, gives us his brutally honest opinion on what he had to go through to do his part in getting this film made and about working with some of the people he ended up teamed with on the set (he’s got some nice stories about Kirk Douglas!). Anyone who’s heard him speak or listened to his commentaries on the Troma films he’s directed will already know going in that he’s an interesting guy to listen to and never at a loss for words, and this segment just goes further to solidify that and is the best feature in this set.

    The second featurette is Starring The Jolly Rogers, which is a half hour long selection of interviews with the stunt pilots who did all the work on the F-14’s in the film. It works well as a documentary even if it does get off to a bit of a slow start, and the last twenty-minutes are quite interesting as they discuss not only some of the technical aspects of making the footage look as good as it does, but also some of the difficulties in filming some of the dogfight scenes and some general anecdotes about the making of the movie.

    The Zero Pilot Journal is a DVD-Rom only feature that documents the work that the pilots of the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero’s did that ended up being used in the film. This is an extremely technical look at what they went through and while aspects or it are quite interesting, it seems to be geared more towards those with a higher level of military history under their belts than what I went in with. I found out afterwards that this was originally published in a military magazine, and that didn’t really surprise me much.

    Eight still galleries round out the disc as they focus posters, advertising materials, the Japanese souvenir program, lobby cards, stills, behind-the-scenes, video releases and miscellaneous bits and pieces. These are pretty comprehensive and worth flipping through, as there are some pretty keen pictures to check out inside.

    Also included in the package is a Blu-ray disc using the same restored transfer that’s on the 4k disc and which duplicates the same extras that are found on that disc. New to this release is a CD containing the entire The Final Countdown soundtrack by John Scott (twenty tracks in total) as well as a full color booklet featuring The Zero Pilot Journal, originally published in the CAF Dispatch in 1979. As to the packaging, Blue Underground provides a reversible cover sleeve featuring their newly created artwork on one side and the original art on the reverse and, for the limited edition first pressing, a slick lenticular slipcover.

    The Final Countdown – The Final Word:

    The Final Countdown holds up well, even if aspects of it have aged a bit. Blue Underground has done an amazing job on the audio, the video, and the extras for this 4k release and if you’re a fan of the film you owe it to yourself to add this to your collection asap. Blue Underground may not have added any new extras to the disc (though the CD and booklet are a nice touch) but the presentation of the feature really is top notch.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Final Countdown Blu-ray screen caps!