Cinderella (4K Blu-ray) (2015)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 10-Jul-2019

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 105:22
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Kenneth Branagh
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Lily James
Richard Madden
Cate Blanchett
Helena Bonham Carter
Nonso Anozie
Stellan Skarsgård
Sophie McShera
Holliday Grainger
Derek Jacobi
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Patrick Doyle


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Japanese
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Cinderella represents the next step in Disney's master plan to create live-action motion pictures from their vast catalogue of animated classics, following in the shadow of Alice in Wonderland and last year's Maleficent. Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), this Cinderella is easily the strongest upgrade so far, a dazzling fairy-tale with charm, heart, and intimacy to supplement the mandatory spectacle. Giving the reins to Branagh certainly seems like a head-scratcher at first glance, yet he's the perfect man for the job, resulting in one of the most convincing fantasy films in years. Often low-key, the movie is not smeared in a disgusting amount of digital effects, and it manages to be child-friendly without directly pandering to the younger demographic. In fact, without the Disney branding or the aggressive marketing campaign, 2015's Cinderella could almost be an arthouse release. Sure, it has anthropomorphised mice and other fantastical touches, but Branagh doesn't overdo it, nor does he slather the movie in excess - effective drama and genuine feeling are the order of the day here.

     The narrative remains virtually untouched, with scribe Chris Weitz creating a fairly traditional updating of Disney's animated film from 1950. Ella (Lily James) becomes an orphan following the death of her beloved parents (Hayley Atwell, Ben Chaplin), left in the care of her not-too-kindly stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett). Under Tremaine's regime, Ella is forced into hard labour, becoming a lowly maid for her stepmother and two grotesque step-sisters, Anastasia (Holiday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera). During a chance meeting with handsome royal prince Kit (Richard Madden), they form an instant connection, with the pair longing to see one another again. When the king (Derek Jacobi) encourages Kit to marry, a ball is arranged, with every woman in the kingdom invited to attend in order for the prince to choose a future queen. With Tremaine forbidding Ella from attending the ball, and undermining her confidence, Ella's Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) is called upon to help the girl reunite with the charming young man she wishes to marry.

     Essentially, Branagh and Weitz set out to tell a familiar story in a competent manner, and by all accounts the end result is a resounding success. Anyone who's intimately acquainted with the source material will not find many surprises here, but this is about the best live-action retelling of the fairy-tale that anyone could realistically expect. The most impressive aspect of the screenplay is that it gives unexpected depth to the characters; Kit and Ella do not fall in love out of Disney formula, but rather out of mutual attraction that develops organically. Moreover, Ella is not even aware that Kit is a prince during their first meeting; her heart aches for him not due to his royalty, but due to his personality. The romance is surprisingly poignant under Branagh's careful eye, and that climactic glass slipper moment is a joy to witness. Additionally, Weitz's script expands upon a few aspects of the Cinderella story that we do not always see - including how Ella gets her Cinderella nickname - and there is an unexpected twist of conspiracy at the heart of the search for the prince's bride-to-be. Thus, while there are small alterations to the source, Branagh's treatment remains respectful and traditional.

     Rather than the punishing grimness of Snow White and the Huntsman or the glossy, plastic look of Maleficent, Cinderella is more like a Shakespearean drama, reminiscent of Branagh's earlier features. As a matter of fact, the film is less successful when the trademark Disney touches pop up, most notably in a scene featuring the Fairy Godmother that's much too broad. For the most part, however, Cinderella works. Beautifully-lensed with 35mm film, the movie is endowed with a convincing look that serves the production well. Maleficent's digital look was a massive problem, as it was impossible to buy the fantastical world as real. But with a fine grain structure and a reliance on sets and costumes, Cinderella's fantasy world looks and feels real. It's rare to label any $95 million motion picture as modest, but this truly applies to Branagh's film; the budget certainly isn't as high as Maleficent ($180 million), Alice in Wonderland ($200 million) or Oz the Great and Powerful ($215 million). There is not a great deal of CGI here which is a massive advantage, as the small digital touches subtly enhance the visuals without calling attention to themselves.

     Although there has been a lot of press about Lily James' impossibly thin figure, her grounded depiction of Cinderella is a huge asset to the film. There's superb humanity to her performance, as she comes across as a strong female trying to make the most of a bad situation while trying as hard as she can to retain her personal integrity and show kindness. Most of all, James possesses the beauty, grace and radiance to be a believable Cinderella. Alongside her, Madden is a terrific love interest, with a down-to-earth quality that makes him instantly sympathetic. He has no interest in the wealth or prestige of royalty, which is why he tries to hide his status from Cinderella when they first meet. Meanwhile, Blanchett's turn as the wicked stepmother is absolutely spot-on. At face value, her villainy is pure black-and-white, but there is some actual depth to the character, with justification for her rotten behaviour. Jacobi also deserves a special mention; he has little screen-time as the king and it feels like a throwaway role, but it's hard to imagine the movie being so spectacular without him.

     Other recent fairy-tale adaptations have been revisionist, but Cinderella is staunchly not revisionist, which is quite refreshing. It may seem paint-by-numbers, but Branagh infuses the story with emotion, which makes for rewarding viewing. With its gorgeous production design and ornate costuming, Cinderella is a joy, and its brisk 100-minute runtime and competent pacing ensure that there’s no narrative flab here. Indeed, the time simply flies by.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Disney initially resisted the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format for some time, to the dismay of many (myself included). In fact, the House of Mouse was the last major studio to jump on-board towards the end of 2017. And then it wasn't until August of 2018 that Disney finally started releasing catalogue titles on 4K, beginning with the first two Avengers movies to coincide with Avengers: Infinity War hitting home video. Since then, Disney has been releasing a steady stream of catalogue titles on 4K, and thankfully, they eventually set their sights on Cinderella. I had nothing but praise for the regular 1080p Blu-ray back in 2015, and most of that review still stands, but Disney handily tops the Blu-ray with this 4K Ultra HD presentation, which is also one of the best titles I've seen on the format. According to IMDb's technical information, Cinderella was filmed on 35mm (except for some scenes, which were shot using Red Epic Dragon cameras) and completed with a 2K digital intermediate; therefore, this transfer presumably represents an upscale of this DI. However, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that this is "only" a 2K movie, as it looks better than some native 4K movies. Presented in 2160p, this HEVC/H.265-encoded transfer maintains the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.39:1, and gets an entire BD-66 to itself, which is perfectly adequate considering the 105-minute runtime.

    Cinderella is actually Disney's first shot-on-film catalogue title to debut on 4K Blu-ray. Disney's remastering team have become notorious for using digital noise reduction on their digitally-shot features (the Captain America movies), which left me nervous about how this one would look. Happily, the House of Mouse has left the grain in-tact for Cinderella's 4K presentation, with no traces of DNR, and it looks gorgeous. With the superior resolution and video codec, the grain is always finely-resolved as opposed to blocky, accentuating the textures and fine detail in the frame. The transfer doesn't exactly swarm with grain, though, which should please grain haters. There's a better sense of clarity throughout the transfer; wide shots, in particular, reveal stronger, tighter textures that the 1080p Blu-ray cannot match (see 20:07). But it's the close-ups which really soar, as the transfer brings out every intricacy that the source will give up - every detail on skin and costuming is evident. Sharpness and object delineation never falter, with the meticulous production design looking pleasing in 2160p. I kept an eye on the video bitrate throughout, and it regular remains between 45 Mbps and 60 Mbps (sometimes going as high as 70 Mbps), which is sufficient to prevent softness or compression issues. At no point does the transfer look smeary or smooth, as it perpetually appears tight, razor-sharp, and richly detailed from scene to scene.

    Colours looked beautiful on Cinderella's 1080p Blu-ray, but the 4K disc is nevertheless a huge step up. The High Dynamic Range grade (encoded in HDR10, as opposed to Dolby Vision - though the movie is streaming on Disney+ in DV) makes Cinderella look even more drool-worthy, with colours popping in every frame. Skin tones are more balanced and accurate, the colourful countryside looks so vibrant and lifelike, while the shiny pumpkin coach leaps off the screen. The Blu-ray compensated for the format's limited colour space by oversaturating the colours, but HDR here allows for a more varied, satisfying, and balanced palette. There's more depth to the lush greenery and landscapes, too. Also see the dresses worn by Ella's stepmother and stepsisters, or the gown Ella wears to the ball after Fairy Godmother peps it up. The royal ball is a spectacular HDR showcase, though again the grading is more on the subtle side. Additionally, HDR restores specular detail to skies and harsh light sources (see Fairy Godmother using her magic on Ella, or the fireworks at 52:55), while ensuring highlights remain strong no matter the lighting conditions. Contrast is improved, with inky blacks across the board, and Disney's remastering team thankfully avoid black crush. Even during darker scenes like Ella speaking to her father in his office during the party, the blacks are on the oppressive side but don't erase detail.

    With the superbly-mastered source, combined with the beautiful HDR grade and immaculate encoding, Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella is a top-notch catalogue effort from the House of Mouse. I was unable to detect anything in the way of compression issues - no macroblocking, aliasing, banding, ringing, or anything else to spoil this beautiful transfer. This is not a night-and-day upgrade over the 1080p Blu-ray, which is still no slouch, but the 4K presentation is more refined and eye-catching in every meaningful way, making this the best way to experience the movie on home video. It looks even better than it did at the cinema. Videophiles will be in heaven.

    Several subtitle options are available. Sampling the English (for the hearing impaired) track, I had no problems.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Whereas the Blu-ray came with a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, the 4K Ultra HD disc takes things up a notch with a Dolby Atmos mix, which has a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. Like all of Disney's home video releases over the last few years, you'll need to crank up the volume a bit higher than normal to get the full experience, but other than that, there's very little to complain about. I do not have an Atmos set-up and can therefore not comment on overheard activity, but the mix sounded excellent when played through my 7.1 surround sound system. Thanks to the lossless encoding, the audio is crystal clear and pristine, without any muffling, hissing or compression-related flaws. There are no issues with prioritisation, as the dialogue is perpetually comprehensible amid the sound effects and music. At times the dialogue is mixed a bit low, but at least it's never overwhelmed by other sounds.

    Surround activity is evident when the occasion calls for it - for instance, panning and separation effects are used for horse neighing sounds at 27:30, voices at 33:30, a horse riding past at 34:45, and several other occasions, which makes for an engaging soundscape. When the clock strikes midnight as Ella sits on the swing, the clock chiming comes from the surround channels during the shots of Ella, but the placement of the sound changes for the shot of the clock itself. The surround channels are also engaged to deliver music, though there isn't much in the way of environmental ambience, which could be traceable to the source. The music comes through clearly, and sounds sensational. The big, sweeping moments, like the scene with Fairy Godmother, sound superb. During the royal ball, the music as Ella and Kit dance is likewise enveloping and immersive, making you feel as if you're in the palace alongside the characters. Disney soundtracks are notorious for lack of oomph and low-frequency effects, but nothing seems lacking in this sense here. When Fairy Godmother creates the pumpkin coach, the subwoofer is subtly engaged to give the effect more impact. Fireworks also sound adequately deep and impactful.

    Aside from needing to crank up the volume higher than usual, and some dialogue which is mixed a bit low, Cinderella's Dolby Atmos mix sounds excellent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The 4K disc has no extras. And there is no 1080p Blu-ray in the set with any extras. So, we get nothing.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Australian release is 4K-only, and therefore you get absolutely no special features. If you don't own the Blu-ray but would like it for the extras, I recommend importing one of the international releases. But in terms of the 4K disc itself (identical to the U.S. disc), the local edition is fine.

Summary

    Thanks to Kenneth Branagh's astute direction, as well as the resistance to create a revisionist take, Cinderella is an utterly enchanting fantasy which will enrapture children and leave adults enjoying themselves, rather than glancing at their watches.

    I've wanted a 4K Blu-ray release of Cinderella for some time, especially since it was shot on film and looked so remarkable on regular Blu-ray. Disney has finally delivered, and the disc doesn't disappoint in the slightest. In 2160p, the movie looks beautiful, and the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is also a winner, particularly by Disney standards. The lack of any extras is a letdown, but if you simply want the movie on 4K, this is a wise purchase. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE