The first season of this magnificent Netflix original drama is all about the rise of drug baron Pablo Escobar, the second captures the true story of his downfall after years on the run, and the third concerns the Colombian kingpins who suceed him. You can expect a mix of tense action sequences, real news footage and superb moustaches – and it's worth watching in 4K for the extra detail on Escobar’s superb selection of sweaters alone.
Altered Carbon (S1)
Altered Carbon is set in the kind of neon-soaked cyberpunk hellhole – created via dizzyingly expensive special effects – that positively demands to be delivered in 4K and HDR. And, thankfully for us, it is!
This glossy, gory cyber-noir takes us 300-odd years into the future, where Earth has become an overpopulated, dirty, decadent mess – but outright death is a rarity. That’s because your consciousness, digitally backed up on a device called a “stack”, can be transported between bodies – if, of course, you can afford to pay the exorbitant fee such an operation entails.
Into this terrifying new world drops hard-boiled anti-hero Takeshi Kovacs, released from prison and dropped into a snazzy, buffed-up Joel Kinnaman-shaped sleeve after a couple of centuries on ice. Why has Kovacs been brought back after so long? In order to solve a murder, of course – a mystery that the insanely wealthy victim (who’s now reincarnated in a fresh cloned sleeve, natch) believes only Kovacs’ unique skills can unwrap.
Blade Runner 2049
The long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s eye-popping cyberpunk classic manages to outdo its predecessor on the visual stylistics, arguably being one of the most stunningly beautiful films ever made. Big ups to director Denis Villeneuve and Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, then, who’ve produced a rare treat for the eyes that owners of 4K televisions shouldn’t pass up. Pick it up on 4K Blu-ray for the ultimate in image quality, but those who baulk at the cost can stream it for much less.
Better Call Saul (S1-4)
No one really likes lawyers. They don’t have millions of adoring fans on Instagram, and their spirit animals are sharks – cold, grey killers, with dead, soulless eyes. But they’re not all bad. Take the slick and lovable Saul Goodman, aka Slippin’ Jimmy – a slick, rule-bending practitioner of justice who won our hearts in Breaking Bad, a show with incredible cinematography that has transitioned into this equally spectacular spin-off.
When hotshot FBI agent Kate Macer (the no-nonsense Emily Blunt) is headhunted by the CIA to take the fight to the cartels over into Mexico, she discovers a team of loose cannons with morals more flexible than a gymnast squeezing into a KFC boneless bucket. Sicario is a taut and urgent thriller, with all the drama of a whole series of Homeland crammed into 121 minutes.
The Man In The High Castle (S1-3)
What if the Allies had lost the Second World War and America was currently ruled by Germany in its eastern half and Japan in its western half? You’d have a damn good plot for a novel, said Philip K. Dick. And, said Amazon over 50 years later, a fairly daring basis for one of its original TV series.
Knowing the scrutiny its first moves as a studio would receive, Amazon pumped a load of dug-up gold into the production. Which is good, because now that it’s available in 4K (with HDR) you can amuse yourself picking up the alt-history references in the newspapers and shop signs as the characters go about their captivating plot-based business in classy period sets.
Black Mirror (S1-5)
Black Mirror’s move from Channel 4 to Netflix has meant a bigger budget, giving Charlie Brooker’s series of dark, self-contained cautionary tales a grander scope. It’s also meant an image quality upgrade to 4K and HDR which, given the show’s cynical view of chasing the latest tech trend, feels somewhat ironic – but when it looks this good, we’ll take it regardless.
Luca Guadagnino’s stylish reimagining of the Dario Argento classic is likely to divide audiences. Ponderously paced and tottering under the weight of more themes and ideas than it knows what to do with, this is peak arthouse horror – and some might find the inevitable gory payoff too little reward for the time invested.
Others will appreciate the movie’s strong sense of place (late 1970s Berlin, a divided city stricken by political turmoil) and the way it builds its oppressive atmosphere with sound effects, strange camera angles and Thom Yorke’s krautrock-inspired score; it’s not a showy movie, but it looks great in 4K. Dakota Johnson stars as a naive American joining a prestigious all-female dance company that just might be a coven of witches, while Tilda Swinton excels in three separate roles.
Life of Pi
Ang Lee won an Oscar for his direction of this extraordinary film about a boy stranded on a lifeboat with only a zebra, an orangutan, a hyena and a huge Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for company. Adapted from Yann Martel's bestselling novel, Pi’s story meditates on faith after his zookeeping family drowns in the Pacific Ocean.
The incredible visual effects of the CGI animals and terrifying weather systems are only enhanced in 4K, which adds to the sense of exposure, powerlessness and isolation of the teenage protagonist. As unlikely as the scenario is, this is an unmissable spectacle.
Mad Max: Fury Road
If ever a film was made for 4K (and HDR if you can get it) it’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller takes what could’ve been a largely bland desert landscape and throws in splashes of colour like cinematic fireworks, with stacks of intricate detail in the characters’ grotesque masks and nightmarish modes of transport.
But it’s not just a treat for the eyes. The plot might be simpler than a sloth’s to-do list but the incredible stunts, superbly realised and totally bonkers world, plus a stonking performance from Charlize Theron make it a 4K journey that’s more than worth hitching a ride on.