The Expanse (S1-3)
Amazon Prime has recently acquired the first three seasons of this cult sci-fi series – and committed to delivering a fourth season in the wake of its cancellation by original creator SyFy.
That news will be music to the ears of anyone who digs sprawling, critically-acclaimed and complex space operas, as The Expanse is all of those things: set a couple of centuries in the future where humanity’s colonisation of the solar system has resulted in tension between competing factions, it’s basically Game of Thrones with spaceships instead of dragons. And it’s all available to stream in beautiful 4K!
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (S1)
Even if you don’t already know who Jack Ryan is, this big budget series has “Tom Clancy” in the title, so you should know the drill: espionage, counter-espionage, international terrorism and moral grey areas about what actually constitutes torture. Yeehaw.
The Office’s John Krasinski stars as Clancy’s CIA analyst and all-round American hero, a role previously played by Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Chris Pine. If you’re thinking the casting of the loveable Krasinski means a slightly more nuanced view of US foreign policy than previous Clancy adaptation’s, you’d be wrong. With Michael Bay numbering among the executive producers, perhaps we should have known this’d be a little lacking in the sort of shades of grey you’d find in, say, Homeland.
But if you can stomach the jingoism and simply enjoy this for what it is – a boy’s own techno-thriller spy story – you’ll find it a slick, pacy ride that looks and sounds glorious on a 4K telly.
This quirky spy drama blends deadpan humour, action and a coterie of memorable characters for a truly original whole.
Michael Dorman excels as the permanently put-upon CIA operative John Lakeman, who really just wants to be a folk singer – only for life to keep conspiring against him.
The smart plot takes in Iran, nuclear weapons, a single-minded Luxembourger cop and a lot more info about industrial piping than you’d ever need know. It’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny at times and the acting throughout is excellent. A real winner.
Saving Private Ryan
Recently remastered in UHD by Paramount, Steven Spielberg’s 1998 World War II’s epic has never looked better than on this disc, where the full 4K resolution and HDR treatment breathes new life – and tons of detail – into this brutal, bloody journey through northern France. The film’s muted, desaturated colour palette suits HDR surprisingly well, while its brilliantly reworked Dolby Atmos soundtrack will stretch your surround sound system to its limits. One of the best 4K treatments of an older movie out there.
American Vandal (S1-2)
With true crime documentaries like Making a Murderer enjoying a purple patch of late, it was only a matter of time until someone started poking fun at the genre – we just didn’t expect it to involve phallic graffiti.
American Vandal follows Peter Maldonado’s attempts to prove Dylan Maxwell’s innocence after the renowned prankster is accused of defacing 27 faculty cars at an American high school. With more twists than a Thorpe Park rollercoaster and all the drama you’d expect from a show centred on American teenagers, it’s near-impossible not to get obsessed with trying to suss out the penis-drawing culprit – and it’s all rendered in gorgeous 4K, to boot.
Don’t let Paramount’s decision to dump this movie straight to Netflix rather than give it a cinema release put you off watching it, because Annihilation is one of the most accomplished and intriguing science fiction films of recent years. Not only is it visually outstanding – presented here both in 4K and HDR – and packed with tension, it’s a brain-twister that’ll leave you with more questions than answers (but enough clues to work everything out, too).
When an unexplained “shimmer” engulfs a tract of land in the southeastern United States, then starts expanding, the government doesn’t know how to act. Everything and everybody they send inside disappears, never to return – with one exception. When Natalie Portman’s biologist finds herself personally drawn into the mystery, she joins a team venturing into the Shimmer and uncovers the shocking truth at its centre.
The Grand Tour (S1-2)
Clarkson and co’s Top Gear-topper is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of deal. If you’re a greasy-fingered petrolhead, or simply into following middle-aged boy-men on their banter-fuelled road trips, you’re going to enjoy this series a lot.
If you can’t stand this brand of overbearing laddishness, The Grand Tour isn’t likely to transform you into a believer – but for anybody looking for some beautifully shot, mindless entertainment to grace that new Ultra HD telly, this impeccably-produced show fits the bill.
A comedy-drama about the trials and tribulations of romantic relationships may not sound like the ideal showcase for Ultra HD but, like a lot of Netflix’s original series, Love is presented in deliciously detailed 4K for subscribers on the “4 screens + Ultra HD” plan.
While the on-screen action is mostly limited to dialogue, Love’s Los Angeles setting and strong production values make it a somewhat unexpected visual treat – and it doesn’t hurt that it’s an enjoyably frank look at dating focussing on two delightfully flawed characters. There are three full seasons to tuck into.
Stranger Things (S1-3)
It might be an homage to all things 80s (think E.T. meets The Goonies meets The Thing), but other than the scratchy, retro opening title, everything about Stranger Things’ production is cutting edge. It was actually shot in 6K, but even on our backwards 4K TVs the picture is stunning. Gruesomely so at the more horror-tinged points of the series. But whether you’re an AV nerd or not, this demands to be seen – it’s two seasons of truly stunning, surprising, unique television.
A mud-caked classic. DiCaprio’s bear-wrestling trials and wintery tribulations might not be the way to warm up for a karaoke night, but the filmmaking and cinematography are as beautiful as the action is brutal.
Yes, Leo deserved the Oscar, but it’s the The Revenant’s bleak, frozen world that make it worthy of being high on your new telly’s watch list.