Memorable Screen Debuts For Omar Epps & Tupac
Ernest Dickerson’s Juice celebrates its 30th anniversary with a new 4K UHD release, upgrading the video in high-quality Dolby Vision. Paramount recycles the older 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio and supplements from the earlier 25th Anniversary Blu-ray. For my thoughts on the engaging crime thriller starring Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur, read my review of the earlier Blu-ray release.
Paramount’s Blu-ray presentation from five years ago was a superb effort, struck from the original camera negative. This 2160p presentation doesn’t look radically different but offers improvements in all areas which matter for video. Juice here looks better than ever, receiving a film-like 4K transfer with tighter grain and texture reproduction, more vivid color saturation, and enhanced fine detail. Sharpness and clarity both exceed the BD’s limitations.
The biggest change is a highly refined Dolby Vision encode, which keys in on lusher magenta tones and more life-like flesh-tones. Check out Raheem’s red jacket, set against New York’s urban back-drop. Exteriors often look beautiful, bursting with amazing depth and definition considering the film stock.
The elements are in pristine condition and reflect how Dickerson filmed the raw urban drama. The ordinary HDR10 pass offers slightly less dramatic improvements for many scenes compared to the superior Dolby Vision (FEL) encode.
Dickerson cut his teeth working as Spike Lee’s cinematographer and definitely experiments with various lenses and lighting techniques during Juice. The movie alternates between incredibly crisp video and a grittier aesthetic, depending on mood and scene.
Feeling his way out as a new director, Juice’s cinematography has a few inconsistencies which doesn’t lend it to flawless reference video, challenging even the Dolby Vision’s 12-bit color grading. A few minor caveats aside, there’s little room left for improvement given the original source material.
The biggest concern is the DJ battle. Hints of chroma noise and chunky macroblocking appear if you carefully observe the background flashes of stage lighting, even in Dolby Vision. Colored strobe lighting has always been an issue for encoders, going back to DVD. Concerts, filmed under an array of moving lights and pulsing beams, often look messy for the same reasons. The HEVC compression is solid outside of those few, brief disappointments.
On larger and more advanced displays like OLED, Paramount’s new 4K UHD transfer looks mostly fantastic in Dolby Vision and HDR10. Juice must have sold well on Blu-ray to earn itself a rare 4K release from Paramount because its raw video appeal is rather average.
Some would say there are more deserving movies for new 4K transfers with more fetching cinematography. Juice receives a worthy 4K upgrade from a meticulous film scan exhibiting better detail and deeper colors. However, the challenging cinematography with its brightness issues does pose minor problems for the HEVC encode and black levels.
Disappointingly, Paramount opts not to remix Juice with an object-based sound mix. Driven by a potent Rap soundtrack, Paramount recycles the same 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio found on the earlier BD release. This isn’t a flashy mix with an array of discrete cues. Some separation is evident and more dynamic effects like gunfire provide suitable impact.
Elements are mostly spread across the front soundstage with occasional ambient support. Bass kicks in when necessary but it’s not a mix that truly ever bottoms out. Dialogue is cleanly intelligible.
Included Rap songs by such acts as Eric B and Rakim, Cypress Hill, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, and other huge names of the era are perfect for the urban street drama. Rolling Stone magazine named this one of the 25 greatest soundtracks of all time for good reason.
Optional English, English SDH, and French subtitles display in a white font. For whatever reason, Paramount has dropped the Spanish dub found on the earlier BD.
Paramount ports all special features found on the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray edition with one exception, losing a small photo gallery of pictures. Nothing fresh is added for this single-disc UHD release.
The 4K UHD is issued in two different configurations. A 4K SteelBook release and the ordinary 4K version with no content differences. A slick, glossy slipcover is available on the standard retail version. Both versions include a digital copy which redeems on either VUDU or ITunes in UHD video quality.
- Audio Commentary by director Ernest R. Dickerson – The director recalls anecdotes, giving insight into his creative process, and generally deconstructs his film in this earnest solo commentary. Informative but gaps in the discussion make it an uneven listening experience.
- You’ve Got the Juice Now (19:12 in HD) – A look back at the making of the film featuring brand new interviews with director Ernest R. Dickerson, producer David Heyman and actors Omar Epps, Khalil Kain and Jermaine Hopkins. The piece details Dickerson’s struggle to remain true to his original vision, his desire to cast fresh new talent, the challenges of shooting on location in Harlem, and the reasons why the film’s ending was changed.
- The Wrecking Crew (23:44 in HD) – The film’s surviving lead actors talk about how they came to be cast in the film and the bonds they immediately formed with one another. They share stories about working with Tupac Shakur, as well as their amazement at working with Samuel L. Jackson, Queen Latifah and Cindy Herron.
- Sip the Juice: The Music (12:51 in HD) – This featurette explores the essential role that music plays in the film. Features vintage interviews with Hank Shocklee and his brother of the Bomb Squad fame about their score, as well as Erik B, EPMD, and members of Cypress Hill speaking about their contributions to the unforgettable soundtrack.
- Stay in the Scene: The Interview (22:43 in upscaled HD) – An archival interview with the four lead cast members on set. The piece demonstrates their tight rapport as they discuss the importance of the film and its message. Taken around the time Juice was in production, the four teens look so young.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review by the studio. This has not affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For more information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page for details.
Ernest Dickerson’s urban youth thriller from the early ’90s remains a powerful film 30 years later, starring young versions of Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur with its classic Rap soundtrack and street appeal.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 52 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: