So, you’ve survived a Black Friday at Walmart and walked out with an absurdly cheap Blu-ray player… then you suddenly realize you don’t have any Blu-ray movies to go along with it.
Maybe that special someone already has a Blu-ray player, but you’re unsure of what movie to get him/her. That’s why we’re here. This guide will help you select from a number of discs released in 2009 so far that are amongst the best (and worst) Blu-ray can offer, so you (or someone else) can get the most out of the format.
Up: Nothing says perfection like Pixar, and there will never be a wasted moment where we could lavish praise upon the greatness of Pixar’s latest. Bold, colorful, and razor sharp, this disc will push anyone’s HDTV to the limit, all for the better. This is the type of transfer that makes you appreciate the stitching of a tie, mostly because you can pick out each individual one. Up could have made it into any one of these categories, but the visual presentation is truly remarkable.
Quantum of Solace: You’ll never realize that you can appreciate the depth of Daniel Craig’s pores (eww…) until you see the staggering level of detail available in this transfer. Razor sharp throughout, Bond’s latest adventure is a visual stunner, both with bright whites and deep, inky black levels. This is how all modern live action films should look.
King Kong (2005): Being who he is, King Kong weights the low end of this DTS-HD mix with powerful thuds as he punishes V-rexes, decimates bi-planes, and runs through the jungle. Likewise, the mix fills the surround channels with a generous amount of rear activity, the highlight being that iconic final plane assault with action in all speakers as they zip around the Empire State Building.
Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen: While you’ll lose a few brain cells in the process of listening to the inane dialogue, there is no question the loss is worth this DTS-HD powerhouse. When Optimus Prime jumps over his nemesis Megatron, he does so with a staggeringly powerful low-end bump that rocks the room, and pushes the sub to the limit. For as ridiculous as the action scenes are, they are accurately handled, capturing each stray bullet or fallen debris.
Sleeping Beauty: For anyone who truly appreciates the art of making movies, Sleeping Beauty is a bonanza of bonus features. Pop-up trivia, a visual commentary from Leonard Maltin & crew, extensive making-of, discussion of the audio restoration, a full episode of the Disneyland TV show, and games for the kids add up to one of the best set of bonus features (more so given the age of the film) currently on the format.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Criterion strikes one of their better efforts in a long line of high-quality discs, if only because of the exhaustive three-hour documentary The Curious Birth of Benjamin Button. That might be the best single feature of the year, deserving of its own glowing review, and if your thirst for more still lingers, David Fincher offers a solo commentary during the film that offers additional insight.
Ghostbusters: While it is difficult to pick one single disc from 2009 to purchase for someone, the venerable Ghostbusters seems like an excellent choice. This 1984 comedy has it all, from wonderful visual effects, Bill Murray one-liners, and a giant Marshmallow Man. It is a classic, and a safe bet for any movie lover.
The Wrestler: Darren Aronofsky’s tragic, involving, and emotional tale of a down-and-out aging pro wrestler deserves any and all praise heaped upon it. A fantastic performance by Mickey Rourke sells this story of a man trying to put his life back together, but is always drawn back to the ring, the only place anyone truly respects him. While not a true story, it could be given the history of the pro wrestling business, adding an additional layer drama on this nearly perfect film.
Galaxy Quest: A sci-fi comedy treat from 1999, this Tim Allen-starring effort is a lot of fun for fans of the genre. It is rife with parody on the convention scene, TV shows, and the culture. The disc itself is a solid effort, with fine video and crisp audio. Extras are pulled from the Special Edition DVD, providing excellent insight into how this loving homage came to be, although it can’t explain what happened to Tim Allen’s live action career after this came out.
Coraline: This disc (and movie) does so much right, it was hard to figure out where to put it. Given the nature of the film and its quirky, stop motion style, it’s hard to recommend for everyone. That said, for fans of off-beat cinema, they rarely come any better, and the Blu-ray is as good as it gets. This is a masterpiece of stop motion, a dying art that deserves additional exposure.
Terminator 2 Endoskull: It’s a freakin’ Terminator head. Not much more needs to be said, even if the rather cheap plastic used in constructing the head is a disappointment. Still, you get the latest Blu-ray edition, and all previous DVD editions of the movie inside the case, a deal by itself. The back of the head doubles as a compartment to hold the discs, and it also comes with a standard DVD case to hold them as well. Oh, and the head itself makes noise and eyes light up. Geek heaven.
Wizard of Oz Ultimate Collector’s Edition: It’s the Wizard of Freakin’ Oz… and not much more needs to be said about that either. With two loaded discs, a watch, commemorative book, replica documents, and the set itself being individually numbered, this is a fantastic set, not to mention a truly superb Blu-ray.
Gojira: Classic Media disappoints with their first Godzilla Blu-ray, a staggeringly poor 1080i transfer, loaded with odd compression artifacts and pulled from an aged source filled with scratches. While there is some benefit to the Blu-ray over the DVD, it is minimal. It’s a shame more people won’t experience the greatness of the original Godzilla because of it.
Ghost Month: This is an odd one, a Blu-ray that is so obscure Amazon doesn’t even stock it (only the DVD), and we might know why. This is one of the most appalling hi-def releases to date, a no-budget horror film shot with low quality digital cameras, and not a single extra. Rest assured the disc exists, but few would ever want to touch it.
Have your own suggestions for any of these categories? Leave a comment below and help out your fellow holiday shoppers!