Every month we round up the latest Blu-ray releases to tell you which ones are worth the space on your shelf. You can find some of these titles reviewed in more detail on CraveOnline. June featured Oscar winners past and present, some breakthrough comedies and a few previews of July releases we got our hands on early.
New Release of the Month
21 Jump Street looks as great as you’d imagine a brand new movie should. Especially since it’s a Sony movie, the inventors of Blu-ray, they got it right. You’ve got a perfectly clear picture, bright light, shiny cars and detail in the action scenes. The drug trip scenes look fantastic.
The Academy Award Award
We're proud to give this year's Best Picture winner The Artist an award for its Blu-ray release. (They always said The Oscars were a good predictor for the Shelf Space awards.) The black and white is stunning, perfectly clear and the lighting is emphasized when you’re only paying attention to grays. It actually holds up against classic black and white movies that have been remastered in HD, only no grain. They have found a way to take that out of the equation these days. The full frame cinematography is packed full of production design and mise en scene to admire in perfect clarity. Just the people walking around the staircase is a marvel, let alone the tap dance finale.
The Bailout Award
For a made for TV movie, Too Big to Fail looks surprisingly great on Blu-ray. It looks perfectly clear and makes corporate offices, hallways and press conferences look gorgeous. Then the New York locations look outstanding. Still, why did we invest in these guys? Honestly.
The Cranked Out Commentary Award
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has a pretty wild video commentary mode. Mainly it's just weird that Neveldine is mugging and posing while Taylor talks about actual filmmaking. They can have three screens going at once. Not included is the complete version of the film with no CG, just Nicolas Cage in Baron Samedi makeup on the set, as promised. We see the makeup in behind the scenes clips, but it's not the same as watching them fully integrated into the movie. Maybe on the Criterion edition…
The Uncomfortable HD Award
Deliverance comes back to Blu-ray for its 40th anniversary in one of Warner Brothers’ Blu-Ray book editions. The film looks amazing. It’s not a colorful film but the drab woodsy setting on the river is perfectly clear and you see all the detail in the rocks and woods. That means you see all the detail in the most uncomfortable scene, and some of the graphic injuries, but it’s also a marvel to see the real actors in the dangerous rapids this clearly.
The Good Timing Award
Right in time for the actual 4th of July, Born on the Fourth of July came out on Blu-ray. This movie looks great, consistently sharp and clear throughout, from small town America and exotic Vietnam war through squalor of the veterans’ hospital and Mexican brothels. Man, Oliver Stone shot some epic tracking shots that we can see in total clarity. The first ten minutes of titles have a haze of film grain, that looks like Stone shot with different film stock. It is distinct and the remaining two plus hours are pure HD.
The Niche Award
Bullhead was the genital mutilation bovine hormone mafia movie of the year. I’m not saying it’s the best genital mutilation bovine hormone mafia movie ever made, but it’s definitely top five. The festival hit and Academy Award nominee from Drafthouse Films, looks stunning on Blu-ray. The gritty scenes hold up in dim light and the flashback scenes brighten up nicely. You see a lot of detail in some of the unpleasant scenes and only a few low light digital noise issues.
The Indie Violence Award
Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest, God Bless America, looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The picture is totally clear and it’s a bright, colorful pallet which makes the bloody violence stand out. The finale at the fake “American Idol” taping is full of wild colors you’ll appreciate in HD.
The SXSW Award
I saw A Bag of Hammers at SXSW 2011 and now it is finally on Blu-ray in wide release. The picture is shockingly clear, like pure high definition. For a rough and scrappy indie, that gives it production value higher than most studio movies.
The Get Used to It Award
Found footage movies are here to stay, and Project X was the first to take the style into the comedy genre. Their HD cameras hold up okay. The main camera looks perfectly clear and bright, even at night when most of the movie takes place. The other cameras they cut away too range from, of course, pixelated cell phones to ok video with a little digital noise.
Surprisingly the only animated title I got this month was Warner Premiere’s new Superman Vs. The Elite. As expected by the standard set by Warner’s DC animation, the artwork is lovely and shines in HD. This one seems a tad brighter than other DC animated movies so that gives the colors a bit more range.
TV on Blu-ray Award
HBO’s release of the final season of Entourage looks solid. It’s sharp, there’s a little bit of grain (probably digital, I don’t think they shot Entourage on film.) It looks more detailed than the HDTV broadcast, but a slightly rougher picture, so you trade detail for clarity.
Being a new release, American Reunion looks pretty good. It’s almost too bright and some scenes flare up with grain.
The Flowers of War
Zhang Yimou’s epic wartime drama featuring Christian Bale looks gorgeous. That color thing he does comes through in a few sequences, particularly some stained glass windows in perfect HD colors. The rough segments feature gritty detail on the battleground and hiding places. Some digital noise does flare up more than a few times unfortunately, but overall the Blu-ray looks great.
Sanctuary: The Complete Fourth Season
I’m willing to say they should have kept “Sanctuary” going just to have more Blu-rays like this. The picture is perfectly clear and sharp, a rarity for TV on Blu-ray. The green screen scenes are even more beautiful because it’s pure art. The makeup effects hold up perfectly so you can see all the detail in the practical artistry. If your’e sad about the cancelation, at least you can look forward to seeing the episodes again for the first time.
Looking ahead, we look forward to reviewing Detention, Lockout, The Three Stooges, and catalog releases Singin’ in the Rain, Mean Streets, Hard to Kill, Next of Kin, Murder in the First, Total Recall remastered, the Marilyn Monroe Collection and Star Trek: The Next Generation.